I started running track 17 years ago when I was in 7th grade. Although I was a naive child when I first put on a pair of running shoes I had a heightened sense of awareness. I knew that running was different than most sports in many ways, but one reason stood out to me more than the others. In a world of gender differences, sexism, and the idea that men are superior to women I noticed that running forged that divided. When I went to track practice for the very first time I remember thinking that it was strange that the girls and boys would run and practice together. I quickly realized that things were different here. Here it seemed like girls and boys were treated equally. Here there seemed to be no barriers. The “here” I am referring to is what I now refer to as the running community. This place, the running community, is special. The running community is a place where I can be all of who I am. This is a place where I can run shirtless through a forest and not be shamed for showing skin. This a place where I can have a conversation with a man and not be disrespected or looked down upon.This is a place where you earn respect based on performance, work ethic, and ability rather than gender. This is a place where it isn’t uncommon to find women taking the lead.
I can remember running combined races in high school and finishing ahead of some of the boys. It was empowering. It actually pushed me to run faster and to work harder knowing that I had the opportunity to illustrate more athletic ability than a boy. At the time I didn’t really understand the depth of what I was feeling or the complexity of the issues that women were facing on a daily basis. It wasn’t until a decade later that I really began to understand just how significant these tiny moments in my youth were.
I’ve been a part of many different teams and running groups throughout my life and I’ve often found myself running with boys or men. Most recently, I’ve been attending biweekly group runs at a local running store. As one of the 2 females that consistently attend these runs, I’ll admit that it can be a bit intimidating heading out for a 6 mile run with a group of men who have an incredible range of speed and distance. However, this is a sport that doesn’t discriminate based on gender and twice a week I put my shoes on and run with the boys. There is even a running joke (see what I did there…..) that I push the pace. You can be a woman who runs with men and that is perfectly normal. No one even thinks twice about men an women being equal in the running community.
The running community has the right idea, let the women run with the men and never hold them back. The rest of society should fall in line with the running community. The running community has proven that women are equal, or sometimes better than men. If you don’t believe me ask the guy who just got beat by a girl!!
I am lucky that I am a girl who runs. Girls who run are a part of a wonderful community that gives them no limitations.