Mind the gap

In NCAA cross country, men run 8k and women run 6k. In national and international races, men run 10 or 12k and women run 5, 6 or 8k. I think these differences are silly. They stem from outdated beliefs that women are more fragile and that their bodies can’t handle the rigors of longer distance races. It’s quite literally sexism that gradually became tradition, and traditions are very resistant to change.

I’m very confused as to why women don’t seem to mind this discrepancy. I can understand part of the reasoning: a 5k can absolutely be just as competitive as a 10k and isn’t necessarily an ‘inferior’ distance by any means, and making a multiple kilometer jump in distance would change the way an athlete trains and race, even though the skill sets are extremely complementary. Regardless, it seems sort of unfair that men’s distance races tend to skew much more towards the longer, aerobic side of things while women’s distances tend to allow shorter-distance athletes to do better.

Additionally, in the US system, men have to make the jump from 5 to 8/10k when moving from high school to college while women get to race the same distances all the way through. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with women’s cross country race distances themselves, there is absolutely something wrong with the reasoning behind why they were chosen. They are relics of a school of thought that led some medical practitioners to believe that a woman’s uterus would fall out if they trained too hard.  Cross country is meant to be a long distance event and I think the running community as a whole should embrace that aspect of it. There’s a huge push right now in track and field to increase the number of events in women’s multi-event competitions from the heptathlon up to the decathlon to make it the same as the men, I don’t understand why cross country isn’t doing the same.


Look at all the uteri not falling out.

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1 Response to Mind the gap

  1. Fearless Leader ugogal says:

    I agree completely…I did a relay bike race with a women’s faculty team at the University of Richmond before coming to Colby and I was APPALLED to find out that the women’s race was like half as far as the men’s. But with cross country, I have to say that things are better than they were…when I was in high school, girls ran about 1.5 miles and boys ran about 3. At least now in high school they run the same distance. And when I was in college, women ran 5K and men ran 8K. So the gap is narrowing! Like most things, it takes time….

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