Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Run girls run!

How the World has changed! I can remember primary school days where I wasn't allowed to take part in certain running events - because I was a girl! And now girls play soccer and cricket at school...

I've been reading a number of running books recently - juggling books actually. I'm currently on Dean Karnazes' '50 Marathons, 50 Days'. Last night I read an interesting chapter that made me think back to those days where I wasn't allowed to do sports and other things because of my gender - even silly thing like whistling "Ladies don't whistle!" (despite this I can whistle a melody or stop a crowd like a trooper!).

In this chapter, Dean talks about a women-only running club; the organisation Girls on the Run, which aims to develop self-esteem and comaraderie in girls through running (he serves on its board); running as 'an almost perfectly gender-balanced sport'; and how, even in the 1960s, women were not allowed to run marathons. In line with the latter point, at the Boston Marathon in 1967, a female runner Katherine Switzer, shook free from the grasp of an official to cross the finishline. Things began to change, slowly.

In 1988, I was 12 years old and in my last year of primary school (Standard 5, now known as Grade 7). My school had an annual long distance running event. I can't remember what it was all about except that the pupils (only for grades 4 and 5 - I think) who entered would run a set number of times around the school's field. It was quite a lot of times as I recall. Girls were not allowed to enter and, as a result, no girl had ever taken part.

Sport admin and team organisation has evidently always been my destiny; at nine I was already organising sports house netball, swimming and running teams and events. So, by Standard 5, as the Captain for my sports house (Zebra - blue), I was no stranger to sports admin, events and the head master's office.

A few days before the long distance run I went to see Mr Johnstone, our head master. I explained that I thought girls should be allowed to run in this event and that it was not right that we be excluded just because we are girls. To his credit, he thought about it and gave me the go ahead to run.

Although I remember sitting in Mr Johnstone's office, I really don't remember much about the run - how far it was, how long it took, how many people ran... I am certain that my friend Chantelle ran part of the race... And I can only just remember the poles and tape that marked out the circuit around the field.

To my knowledge the event still exists and girls have been allowed to take part since that day in 1988.

Thinking of my recent adventure at the 6-day TransRockies Run... we had loads of womens pairs in the Open and +80 categories as well as many mixed pairs. I can't confirm but I'm still sure that there were more women running than men. How the World had changed! Thank goodness!

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