By Erin Strout Re-posted from Runner’s World
In my hometown, every Fourth of July begins with a one-mile race on the streets of Flagstaff, Arizona. It’s set up like the Fifth Avenue Mile or the Carlsbad 5000—waves of competitors, grouped by age and gender, compete against each other.
If I enter the Downtown Mile, I can choose the category in which I want to compete. Being “an old,” I can opt for the masters wave or if I’m feeling ambitious, I can go for the open division and risk being whooped by a pack of teenagers. Typically I opt to skip it altogether and volunteer instead.
However, if I decide to compete in the open category, place 10th, but run a faster time than the winner of the masters division, I don’t earn the first-place masters award—it was a different race, with different competitors, which created different racing strategies and dynamics. It was an entirely different competition—one in which I chose not to participate. I go home empty-handed.
Seems fair, doesn’t it?
In the aftermath of the 2018 Boston Marathon—a year in which the treacherous weather conditions played heavily into the racing tactics of top female athletes—three women in the open category and two masters athletes ended up in the final results with faster finishing times than women who received the prize money. The faster women were ineligible for the awards because they didn’t qualify to compete with the elite women’s-only field of 46 athletes, which started at 9:32 a.m. in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. Instead, these women began at 10 a.m. in the next wave of 7,500 mixed-gender competitors.
What happened next included predictable outrage and backlash. Just as predictably, much of the controversy was unwarranted and based on misinformation. Some news outlets framed it as an issue of gender inequity. Others didn’t fully understand the rules involved.
Original Runner’s World article here