Does women only mean men aren’t welcome?

This is my last week of training before competing in my first half marathon on Sunday.  And this won’t be any ordinary 13.1 miles.  The race is a women’s only event…a growing trend in the running world.

In recent weeks, a lot of ink has been devoted to these types of races.  The Wall Street Journal had an article about how some men are entering women’s only events because they stand a better chance winning.  A few even admit they do it to meet women. 

To avoid legal issues, these races don’t outright ban men from participating, but some, like the one I’m participating in on Sunday, do all they can to keep the men from signing up.  The organizer for the Long Island Diva Half Marathon tells the paper:

                      “We had four men signed up, but two dropped out when they heard about the  firemen,” says Mr. Pozo, the race organizer. “We’re making this race so girly that men won’t want any part of it.”

The firemen.  I should explain.  At the finish line, bare-chested firemen have been recruited to hand out the finishing medals, which are decked out in bling.  There are also tiara and feather boa stations on the course.  Not sure how I feel about draping a feather boa over my sweaty shoulders, but I’ll take the tiara.  And for the record, I’ll be wearing aqua, not pink.

Some blogs have taken issue with these gimmicks.  I don’t have a problem with them.  They’re just perks.  I signed up because I wanted to challenge myself and be surrounded by strong women looking to do the same thing. 

Every race I’ve ever done has been overrun with men. (I don’t have a problem with that either, I mean have you seen what some of these guys look like! Hot!  But I digress.)  In a field of mostly men, the race atmosphere is tense and serious and super competitive.  When competing alongside women, the mood is generally more social and encouraging. 

When the chain slipped off my bike in the middle of my first triathlon, it was a woman who stopped to help me.  When running up a particularly rough hill during my second triathlon, it was the company of two other women who kept me going.

Look, I’m not trying to say women aren’t competitive.  I am.  And I’m going out there this weekend to post the best personal record I can, but I’m no elite athlete and for me the race is about finishing and enjoying myself along the way.  I see nothing wrong with making a race attractive to only women.

As for those men who enter these races specifically to beat girls, I say, grow up.  To those doing it to meet women…  I’ll give you points for creativity, but not my number.

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