Years ago, about twenty years ago, I ran with a group in Toronto called The Toronto Pacers. It was mainly made of men; only four of us weren’t and, usually, only 1 or 2 of us ran with the boys each week.
I loved running with the guys, and I trained with a few on the roads and at the pool through the week. Yes, I was slower than they were, but they always paced me through the start of our Sunday runs – only to leave me behind. I loved the rush of trying to keep up with them and fought hard to chase them to the finish. Those years formed my running personality; passing men at races is so satisfying (sorry, guys).
On Wednesday night, Shawn and I headed out for our tempo run. As we neared one of the trails in our neighbourhood, we noticed a group of 4 or 5 men, donning shorts and flashlights on a chilly fall night, trying to cross the road and head towards another trail. I wanted to get ahead before they crossed but had no luck; we had to work our way around them.
Shawn went first, swerved widely around them and said “Hello.” As they were answering, I went around them, saying “Have a good run, guys.”
“Hey! What’s going on here?” one cried.
“What the—,” yelled another.
We heard a few comments between them as we kept running and, once out of earshot, Shawn voiced his shock.
“I’ve never seen anything like that.”
“Yeah, they were obviously okay with you but were pissed when I passed them.”
“It’s so sexist,” Shawn added. “Come on, guys. We’re all runners.”
I often hear comments like that. A few weeks ago, my friend, D., asked if there was a certain rule about passing people at races. She heard someone yell “You’re not allowed to do that!” and worried about what she had done wrong. “I get that all the time,” I told her. “It’s because you’re female, and they’re mad because you’re passing them.”
In the same vein, though, many men also offer words of encouragement. “Go get ‘er, girl,” stands out from a race last year when two men heard me coming from behind and got out of my way as they urged me to catch another female runner (and I did). At the Chocolate Race in the summer, one man urged me to stick with him for the last few kilometres – but I just couldn’t hold his pace. Those positive vibes and support from men does exist.
What I found so refreshing on Wednesday night was the shock that my male running buddy felt. But those same sexist tones raise my adrenalin and likely drop my pace a second or two. So, it’s not all bad.
But, really, guys. We are runners too – just runners with ponytails and Running Skirts.