Study finds female runners less competitive than male runners, but why?

We’ve all heard the gender stereotype, that women are supposed to be more cooperative while men are supposed to be more competitive.  I generally tend to push back against such gender-essentialist ways of looking at the world because they fail to account for the variability of individuals, as well as for the way people actually interact.  Take sports.  Sports are, at their core, competitive, but success within sports requires the ability to cooperate, both with teammates and coaches.  And interpersonal competitiveness is not something you only see in men.  Just ask anyone who has ever had a run-in with a “queen bee.”  Over my thirty-three years I’ve learned that all kinds of people have all kinds of personalities, and that those personalities don’t often correlate to expectations based on that person’s race or gender or sexuality.

Consequently my hackles tend to go up whenever I see anything that appears to fall into that kind of reductionist thinking.  In fact, I was all ready for them to go up when I came across an article by Amby Burfoot at Runners World entitled “Why Are Women Runners Less Competitive Than Men”?  Oh man, they were so ready to spring into action so I could pound my keyboard furiously in a righteous feminist rage.  How dare he, etc. etc.  After all, the researcher cited in the article, Robert Deaner, has been used by dudes like John Tierney to justify retrograde gender mores using pseudo-science for years now.  He’s pretty much begging for some righteously feminist keyboard-pounding, don’t you think?

Then I read the article.

Check this out:

[Deaner]‘s saying that the women who finish in 5th, 10th, and nth place behind the female race winners are often farther back, relatively, than the 5th, 10th, and nth place male finishers. That is, the 10th place female might be 15 percent behind the female winner, while the 10th place male is likely to be only 10 percent behind the male winner.

Now I’ve been running for about six years now, and I’ve been consistently grabbing age group awards for the last five of those years.  I don’t always age-group, but even when I don’t, I am usually in the top ten percent.  This happens even though my times, while good, are still slower than those of a decent high-school cross-country runner.  For the first few years, I jokingly explained my age-group awards as resulting from the fact that all of the other women in my age group were too busy having babies.  But then I moved up into the 30-34 age group, and the same thing held true.  In my local racing community, I can think of about three or four women in my age group who consistently beat me.  This is true even though I am a six foot tall woman with hips who did not run in high school and who smoked for nearly a decade and a bunch of other factors that don’t really mark me as the kind of person you’d think of as a “natural runner.”

(I’m not the only female runner to make this observation.  RoseRunner, who, by the way, is an outstanding runner who would knock the compression shorts off me if we ever raced each other, has written in the past about the same thing.)

Meanwhile, my husband, who races in the 50-54 age group, is posting times that are as fast as mine, if not faster, and he doesn’t win age-group awards nearly as often as I do, because he is also racing against a lot of men who can do things like run 20-minute 5Ks.  His age group of middle-aged men is much, much more competitive than my age group of young women.

The interesting thing is that my age groups tend to be among the biggest at any given race, so it’s not as if I’m like the 70-year-old who age-groups just because I show up, you know?  The women are showing up in droves at races, but they just tend to be less competitive than their male counterparts.

Over time I’ve developed a couple of theories about this.  One thing I’ve seen is that a lot of women who do run tend to run with companions – usually their friends or maybe their sisters or something like that.  Running is this fun, social thing they do, a way of getting fit and healthy while having a good time and getting a cool medal and t-shirt.  Another thing I’ve seen is that women – especially women with kids – don’t have the time to put into aspects of training that will help them get faster, like speed workouts at tracks, or piling on the kind of mileage to help them build endurance.  I have other ideas – that some women feel too embarrassed to physically exert themselves in public, that the idea of competitiveness as being “unladylike” still persists to a certain degree – but I have no way of knowing how true any of this is.

All I know is that if women I race against were as competitive as the men my husband races against, the number of age group awards in my possession would easily be reduced by half.  I’m just not that good of a runner.

Burfoot’s article goes on to address a second piece of research that confirms what Deaner found and provides some possible explanations:

Marquette University’s Sandra Hunter and Alyssa Stevens concluded that roughly a third of the difference between male and female race distributions is due to the lower participations rates of women. When more women participate, the top 10 women get more competitive.

Those explanations did not include physical factors like VO2 max, lactate threshold, and running economy.

Hunter and Stevens went on to say that as the number of women toeing the line has increased, so has their competitiveness:

In one telling analysis, Hunter and Stevens found that the male-female distribution gap shrank over the 31 years, as more women began competing.

That’s awesome news, especially for someone like me, who is highly competitive and who very much thrives off of going up against others who are bringing their A-game.  I train hard, I race hard, I do speedwork, I do strength training, I watch videos, I do drills, I do all sorts of things that are geared toward one goal: making me a better, faster racer.

Now, I do think it’s worth unpacking the possible social implications of this discrepancy.  If women are less inclined to be competitive because of social connotations that a competitive woman is somehow unladylike, then that is worth addressing.  But I also think that as time goes on, and more girls are born into a world in which they see more women competing as athletes and hear fewer messages about the supposed freakish nature of those women, those girls are going to in turn grow up to be women who will be more inclined to embrace that competitive spirit and not view it as somehow antithetical to their femininity.  I strongly believe that over time, the competitiveness gap will narrow, and maybe even one day vanish.

But I also think it’s worth talking about the fact that not everyone aspires to be fast or to lead the pack or to win age-group awards, and – hold on to your butts, because this is the real mind-blowing part – this is okay.  You can run or do triathlon or compete or play sports for whatever reasons you want, and it’s perfectly okay.

This is what seems to be missing out on conversations about the relative competitiveness of men v. women, which is that there are a lot of reasons why people get out and spend their weekend mornings at road races, and that competition is not necessarily one of those reasons. The implied assumption of a lot of this research – and the articles and discussion that follows – is that competitiveness is sort of like the Holy Grail of running, that it is inherently more valuable than racing for social reasons or even just to complete it.  Even though I myself am very competitive, I question the idea that I am somehow superior to someone who is, say, running for the sake of completing the race.

It comes back to that whole debate about valuing so-called “male” qualities at the expense of “female” qualities.  Why must we posit everything as a hierarchy, in which one thing is devalued in order to give another thing value?   What do we lose out on when we discard one set of values in praise of another?  I say we accept that there are a lot of ways to be a runner, and that almost* all of them are perfectly fine.

*Except if you like to tweet during races.  Even my expansive sense of open-mindedness cannot accommodate runners who tweet during races.  Put your damn phone away, okay?

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34 responses to “Study finds female runners less competitive than male runners, but why?

  1. Interesting! I HAVE noticed that the top, say, 20 men at big races are all within 5 minutes of each other, whereas the top 20 women are sprinkled much farther apart, even considering percentage time behind the respective first place man/woman. On one hand I sometimes thought it was because less women show up at the races. But that’s not the case, is it? Is it because not as many women show up to race hard? Or, maybe this is a stupid thought, but maybe a smaller percentage of women are built to run at faster speeds? I’ve always felt like I was loaded with more testosterone, narrower hips, and bulkier legs than the average woman….but that could be in my head.

    I think the “companion running” point you made is a huge part of the reason. I’m always surprised to place in the top three women of local races, but then I look around and a lot of the women are either a) dressed up in sparkles or a boa (not an insult, just the truth) and running with a friend/party of friends; or b) running as a goal, to just “finish” the 13 miles or the 26 miles, and therefore understandably are not really concerned with their watch.

    And like you said, there’s nothing wrong with that. I do support ALL runners, whether they will only run if they’re wearing something cute, or don’t like to push it hard, or only run 2 days a month.

    BUT. It would be SO awesome if one of this “diva” races or “see jane run” races or “zooma” races or “Nike’s women” races was based on badassery instead of chocolate, champagne, or a tiffany’s necklace. Seriously, Nike, a tiffany’s necklace from a chippendale’s firefighter? THAT’S what gets women excited to run? I don’t know who is promoting the wimpiness/diva-ness/fashion aspect of womens races–the race directors or the participants–but it is what it is. Runners come in many different ways, and for whatever reason, women moreso than men do turn races into a social event.

    • I have so many opinions on women-only races, OMG. I don’t run them any more but I would be so much more inclined to do so if they were like, as you said, based on badassery instead of reinforcing stereotypes of femininity in ways that strike me as patronizing. Also it would help if they weren’t so damn overpriced. Seriously, those races (along with RnR races) are some of the most expensive races I’ve ever done. Sheesh. And all the pink! When did the Gender Gods have the meeting to decide that the official Girl Color was going to be that specific shade of pink? I even like pink a whole bunch, but I feel resentful of the way it’s presented as the only option for women and girls.

      I really need to write a whole post on that.

      maybe this is a stupid thought, but maybe a smaller percentage of women are built to run at faster speeds? I’ve always felt like I was loaded with more testosterone, narrower hips, and bulkier legs than the average woman….but that could be in my head.

      I’ve heard this theory before, and I think it’s valid when we are talking about women who run at national-class levels or above, but then I also don’t know how that explains someone like me, who is regional class and yet I am totally not built that way. I think that when we get into the slightly slower speeds (regional/local class) that there is more room for variability in body types. Does that make sense?

      • I don’t get women only races. It seems to patronizing to me. But, every day I discover a lot of women would really like that and these events to appeal to a certain woman. Not the type I would find interesting though!

      • I understand them from an intellectual perspective, and I know that a lot of women love them. That said, I have made a deliberate choice to stay away from anything billed as women-only because I usually find them to be, like you said, rather patronizing. I have a low tolerance for “you go girl!” sentiment.

  2. On the age group issue, the 30-somethings are all busy having kids too. Have you looked at the masters results in your area? I had to kiss age group placement good-bye once I was 40. Perhaps a local quirk, of course, but I wonder if there’s something to it more widely as well?

    • I have and there are some badasses in those age groups, too. I love seeing that because it tells me that I don’t have to necessarily expect to slow down due to age-related stuff until I’m much older, but yeah, I’m totally expecting for the AGs to get real when I hit my 40s.

      • Whoa, that article is fascinating reading for me as I really want to have kids but – ha! – haven’t seem to made that happen yet. It’s interesting to think of myself as part of a larger social trend and not just a really late bloomer.

  3. I consider myself quite competitive, but in my local road races, this methodology would read me as non-competitive. Sometimes I even win with a low-mid 20 5k or a 44ish 10k. Some weeks an amazing 39 year-old woman who paces her 11 year-old son to an 18-something 5k shows up, and I’m nowhere near her. I am laying it all on the line against the bodies that are near me in the last mile or the last straightaway… but those are male bodies I’m competing with. By their methodology, I’m 2 minutes back from the winner and 30 seconds ahead of the next gal, so none of us top 3 women are are “competitive.” But stack me against the runners I’ve just passed or been passed by, and the gap is only a few seconds.

    Thinking about how race strategy plays out, it is psychologically difficult move up over a gap between packs, but easier to battle it out with the group you’re running with. I suspect many women are displaying competitive behavior – targeting someone, passing someone, holding someone off, but there just may not be other women in that pack.

    My local running club has a really amazing masters’ scene for both males and females, and maintains course records not just for age-brackets but for numerical ages. From my vantage, it seems equally vibrant for men and women, which in the latter case is all the more amazing, because the women who are setting out to break course records for people in their 6th or 7th decades are people who grew up before Title 9 and had to find her own road into making the bargain of hard work and suffering needed to pus one’s self to that kind of achievement. Surely the lack of cultural opportunities to learn to love physical competitiveness (even against one’s self) is part of the wide gap seen in the ‘competitiveness’ of the 70-79 cohort? Perhaps this 30 year-old series of weekly races and the community that’s grown up around them has made female badassery at all ages part of the local culture…

  4. Caitlin, this is fascinating. I’ve run off and on over the years, but never competitively, and usually by myself. I’ve been riding my bike longer distances for the past year. I never entered any kind of race (well, other than field day in middle school) until this past fall, when I decided to race cyclocross a few times, in part because it has a reputation of being very friendly to beginner women (which it is). With all this cardio fitness from cycling, I got back into running. I have always thought of myself as a slow runner. I also prefer to run on trails, so I’m not usually anyplace where I have much of a sense of distance, and only recently did I start to think about splits.

    But, after reading this, I looked up some stats, and realized I’d easily be middle-of-the-pack at local 5Ks and 10Ks. It never occurred to me that I’d be anywhere but at the very back, in front of only the walkers.

    I can be competitive, and I guess I never thought about entering a running race because it didn’t occur to me I could be competitive! At least if I worked at it, anyway (in a local, fun way I mean).

    So I looked up some local events and might get into them. Thanks for the inspiration!

    An another note: I’m 39, and as horrified as I am as a feminist to admit this, I’m pretty sure the approach of my 40th birthday is what’s motivated some of my new efforts in fitness.

    • That’s awesome! You know, I think you’ll find that there’s so much to love about racing beyond the competition of it. If you take part in races that are well-organized, they can be so much fun. There’s this sense of camaraderie among people who race, because it’s like six in the morning, you all are standing around in the middle of the road waiting to run around in circles, and it all feels a little crazy but you all are being crazy together so who cares! I definitely would not be so enthusiastic about it if I thought it was horrible and sucky.

  5. Great post!

    The conclusions of the study didn’t ring true to my experience as a (competitive in attitude, not in placement) runner, so out of curiosity, I looked at the results of a recent half-marathon I ran.
    (Some demographics: Major metro area (NYC); a mostly local field)
    The male winner finished in 1:10 and change. The 3rd place male finished in 1:13 — 3 minutes behind.
    The female winner finished in 1:22. The 3rd place female finished in 1:25 — 3 minutes behind.
    Looking a little bit deeper into the results, the 10th place male finished 7 minutes behind the male winner, and the 10th place female finished 8 minutes behind the female winner– nearly exactly the same, and because I’m not counting seconds, it could be even closer than that.

    So for this particular race, the findings of the study don’t seem to hold up.

    I know, obviously, an anecdote is not data; this is only one race, and if I were any level of a researcher rather than just a curious amateur, I would look into other races in this and other areas and try to figure out whether this race is an exception to the rule, or whether there are factors that might influence the level of competition among women in a given geographical area, or if that is even a factor.

    I think there are several factors in New York City in particular that might contribute to a strong (and competitive) running scene for women. Not only is the field for runners particularly deep, with local races regularly attracting 5,000- 10,000 runners, but there is a strong club scene, and competition between the clubs is encouraged by frequent ‘club points’ races and interclub challenges. The club scene also allows coaching opportunities for runners who might not get it otherwise.

    In short– I am glad for good research and analysis on the topic, rather than just the easy assumptions that ‘well I guess women just don’t care as much about winning!’.

    • It might be interesting to also look at distances other than the marathon. I do think that there is a certain level of self-selecting that takes place with regard to the marathon, which hasn’t seen the kind of gender parity of the half-marathon. I mean, it takes so much time to train for one, and if you’ve got kids and a job and stuff, it becomes that much harder to find the time. And to be a top-level marathoner means 80+ mpw, which not a lot of people have the time – or frankly the desire – to do. I would consider myself competitive but I will never be the kind of runner who puts in 80+ mpw. One, I don’t have the time and two, my body would probably not be able to handle it.

      You know, the feedback I’ve gotten on this post – including your comment – has made me really think harder about all of the limitations in the original study. More research should be done into this, and maybe not just research that looks at numbers but is actually qualitative, too.

      • I know! I mean, I know that Burfoot’s article talked about a number of studies, but they were done by the same person. It makes me want to do my own research. I mean, one of the studies was only using one race- the NYC marathon- as data. Hardly representative of all marathons, and hardly representative of all races. Many people, especially people in the later waves, just treat it as a fun run because of the crowds; there’s a huge charity contingent (possibly more women than men?) who don’t always have a strong running background, and because you have to sign up so far in advance, there are always people who get injured or otherwise have their training derailed but who run it anyway.

        I mean, let’s look at 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons. Let’s look at geography. Let’s look at whether there’s a strong running scene which is supportive of women. Then maybe we can figure out if ‘women are less competitive than men’ or if it’s something else entirely that’s going on.

      • By the way, don’t know if you’ve looked into Deaner’s articles themselves, but they are available on his website (linked in Burfoot’s article). They are giving me a serious case of feminist rage-face. Read at your own risk.

  6. Huh, that’s interesting.

    I’ve never run a race, because I’m no endurance runner — I can only run a mile or so without stopping to walk. I am entertaining notions of working my way up to a 5k, but strength training has always been my priority.

    I have *never* been able to comprehend running with a partner — how would you talk to them while you’re gasping for air?

    So perhaps I am competitive with myself, in that I feel a need to run fast enough that I couldn’t carry on a conversation while running. I know that in lifting, and rowing, I am quite competitive with myself! I also think there’s something to the earlier comment that women racers are probably competing with the people nearest to them, who might be men.

  7. (Less on-topic: You list being six feet tall as one of the things that makes you not an obvious runner-type. I would’ve thought being tall would help? It means you’ve got a longer stride, and don’t need to take as many steps to go the same distance!)

    • You know, it’s interesting, I would think the same thing too, but it seems like the bigger factor is body mass, because the repeated forces from landing on your feet over and over again accumulates and so the lighter you are, the easier it is for you to keep yourself moving forward. Ryan Hall is the only tall elite distance runner I know of, but he’s also incredibly thin.

      Also, I actually don’t have that long of a stride when I am doing distance running; I try to keep my stride smaller so as to avoid heel-striking. The only time my stride lengthens is when I am sprinting at the end of a race.

      I also thought about how here’s a lot of selecting that goes on with sports. If you are taller in your youth, like I was, you are very likely to be recruited for the basketball and volleyball teams or for things like long jump or high jump, so it’s possible that there could be many taller runners who are good at long distances, but they may be talents that are going unexplored because it never occurred to them to check out sports other than the standard Tall Person Sports. Just speculation though…

      • OK, that makes a lot of sense!

        (I definitely feel you on body mass counting against you; I suspect that’s part of the reason running is so hard for me, as I’ve done an insane amount of strength training in my life and added huge amounts of muscle mass, especially on the upper body, which would of course be dead weight while running …)

        What you say about Tall Person Sports also makes a lot of sense, though we didn’t really follow that in my family. I chose weightlifting, which is definitely a Short Person Sport (I’m 5’8″, not as tall as you but taller than average), and my brother, who is maybe 6’1″, chose distance running. He was also really skinny, though.

        My family isn’t a sporty family, though; we’re all academic nerds, and I think my brother and I kind of confounded our dad by being jocks too. I think of him looking at us and being like, “How are these my kids?”

  8. Love your thoughts on reasons to run as having bearing on competitiveness. Competitive years (20 to 45) also fall into years women are having/raising kids and focus tends to be on holding career/house/family together. Do guys get more a sense of validation for finishing closer to top whereas women might say, well, it’s just a ribbon & ask what’s really important? I wonder if women, perhaps thinking more holistically, figure if they’re not going to the Olympics, why not spread that energy out — running but also career & family & friends & volunteering etc etc? In my club, the most competitive women — winning age groups, putting in serious training — tend to be late 40s and 50s, when kids old enough to look after themselves or women have found time to focus more on own training. I agree — there is no simple way to look at this issue and make comparisons. Let’s remember that more women are getting into university, medical schools and law schools — does that make us more competitive than men?

  9. If you look across various sports, the participation factor begins to stand out as a major variable in competitiveness. Sports that have long been a bastion for female athletes, like figure skating or gymnastics, have had tight competitions for decades. Women’s tennis has become immensely competitive in the years since the Williams sisters took over; I used to marvel at the way I’d rarely see anyone outside the top five or six seeds make the semifinals at a major tournament, but now that’s the case for the men. On the women’s side, it’s completely normal for one or two players from anywhere in the rankings to get on a streak and go much further than expected.

    On the flip side, women’s MMA is still in its infancy. As such, even though the 135-lb. division is probably the deepest in the sport, Ronda Rousey has become the champ by winning all six of her fights in the first round via the exact same method (armbar), which is unheard of. Not only that, but it’s hard to envision anyone who might stop that streak. She’s an Olympic medalist in judo and a phenomenal athlete, but even the baddest, longest-standing champions on the men’s side still get pushed from time to time, and you can trace that directly to the fact men’s MMA has existed over a decade longer. Give the sport ten years and we’ll see Rousey as both a Hall of Famer and an anachronism because no one will ever be able to duplicate what she’s doing now.

    • Thanks for the comment! I’ve made similar observations with women’s college basketball. For a long time it was nothing but UConn, but over time the talent pool has deepened, and now it’s UConn, plus Tennessee, Notre Dame, Baylor…you don’t overcome generations of social conditioning in one generation, you know? It takes time.

  10. Pingback: If you are going to ‘explain’ women, it helps to talk to us first « Fit and Feminist·

  11. This is interesting article. I feel like i want to do my own research on it. I don’t consider myself very speedy. If I hit the top 25% I feel pretty good. But, honestly, I usually push it harder during many of my training sessions than my races. I don’t know why. Being an engineer who loves to analyze data, I often pour over the race results like NASA would for rock samples analyzed by Curiosity on Mars. What was the % of men/women in the race? What age group had the most representation? How did the 40 year old men do compared to 25 year old men? etc. When I do this, I am always shocked at how slow women are relative to the men. I could finish at the 50% mark for men, but get 2nd place for many of the women’s age groups. When I do this i am thinking that I know women can be really fast! Nearly as fast as men in the elite races. Why are they so darn slow in the amateur ranks?

  12. I just finished a book that has a lot of parallels to this topic and I think you might like it.

    Why Men Earn More, by Warren Farrell (http://www.amazon.com/Why-Men-Earn-More-Startling/dp/0814472109)

    The premise of the book is that every choice requires trade-offs, and, the research shows that when faced with these trade-offs, women are more likely to make choices that lead to a more well rounded, fulfilling life/career, and that men are more likely to make choices that lead to higher earnings. (I hope that doesn’t make it sound biased, because it’s very well researched, thoughtful, and open-minded)

    The parallel I see is that maybe with athletics men are more likely driven to win (which requires more sacrifices), where women are more likely to appreciate the athletics for the enjoyment and social aspects (more fulfilling lifestyle), and that leads to higher performance in the men (some of the men… there are always exceptions to every rule). And, like you said… this is ok! If women want to race because it is fun and they like going out their with their friends there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

    • Thanks for the book recommendation – I will have to keep my eyes open for it. It’s actually relevant to my own professional life right now as I passed up the opportunity to apply for a promotion because I made the decision to maintain my current work/life balance at the expense of having more money/responsibility and a fancy title. In the old-school feminist way of looking at things, the right option would have been to go for the promotion and try to establish myself higher in the echelons of my organization, but that wasn’t the right option for me. I have other priorities beyond making money, you know?

      So yeah, I think this sounds like it will be something that is right up my alley.

    • Sorry I’m so late, but I saw you post about this on FB and put it on my to-do list to read and just getting to it now. See the problem with remaining a competitive runner. I have 3 kids 4 and under. That means I have now had to take 3 of the last 5 years off of training and just as I get back into shape, I became pregnant again. All by choice, but it makes me “less competitive” according to this article than I otherwise would be. There are far fewer women than men who can put in the years of uninterrupted consistent training that it takes to post top race times. Even at the local level, at least someone of the local running elite will be pregnant or bouncing back from pregnancy during any given year and I’ve known a lot of competitive women who give it up after they have kids. They might keep running, but stop the competing part. I often feel like I have to part the sea to get in my training even when not pregnant. The responsibilities of raising small children tends to fall disproportionately on women and it’s exhausting. In my case, I chose to make my children my career for a few years, so it was my own choice and I love running and training so it’s an escape for me. But I can very easily understand why some women cut back or give it up when going through this time in their lives. I think this is just one reason. There are many, but this is the one that I can identify with the most.

      • Yes, I think that if men were under the same biological constraints as women, the divide might not be as great. I mean, even if you just take the nine months of the pregnancy, that’s a whole year out of the woman’s prime running time. Your first-person perspective on this reaffirms what I suspected, which is that it’s not so much that many women don’t have the desire to be “competitive” as that they have other things going on in their lives besides running.

        For real, the more I think about this study, the more I’m thinking this whole thing is kind of bullshit. If a woman doesn’t want to have kids, then more power to her, but a lot of women – myself included – do and that doesn’t mean we are somehow lacking in a killer competitive instinct or whatever.

      • I’ve been thinking about this article a lot today and it dawned on me that just because our race times are less clustered at the top does not mean we’re less competitive. Being competitive is a characteristic or state of mind – it’s not an actual race time. It’s a motivation. Those race times don’t demonstrate what women are thinking or why they’re lining up for any given race. So yeah, it is bullshit!

  13. I just re-examined results from 3 different half marathon races. Two had about 4000 participants and the women out numbered the men. I find there is always different ways to look at data. As I looked at the results in different ways it occured to me, that just perhaps it isn’t that the women behind the winning women are less competitive, but perhaps that the first place finisher for women is just that much more kick ass than in the men’s group. That is another way to look at it that no one seems to have mentioned.

  14. I recently discovered Iron Girl racing events. http://www.irongirl. What do you think of these? For me, it really annoys me that they call it Iron Girl which makes one think it is an Iron Man event for just women. But, they seem to be sprint distance. The swims seem to be even shorter than a normal sprint distance race. I think this is hardly worthy of the title “Iron”. Am I being a dick?

    • From my perspective as a lady, that’s not being a dick, that’s being practical. I get rather frustrated with use of the word “girl” in general though, so maybe I’m a dick too.

    • I don’t think you are! I personally have always grated at the “girl” part of it but I think you also make a good point about making it seem like an Ironman that’s just for women. I guess Ironwoman isn’t catchy enough? I don’t know. I haven’t done an Irongirl event in a few years. They cost more than coed events and they have more than a whiff of the patronizing about them. (I feel this way about most women-only races. I’m not really a fan.)

      Also I checked a few of the swims and they all seem to be half-mile, which is about the standard for the sprints I’ve done (although I’ve done some with 1/4-mile swims too). What was the distance you were seeing?

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