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Digital Subscriptions > Women’s Running > June 2019 - CRUSH 50K THE EASY WAY > THE GENDER RUNNING GAP


We rightfully expect to be treated as equals in everything we do. But there are still areas of the running world where women and men aren’t treated the same. It’s time to redress the balance Tina Chantrey

We’ve come a long way. Just one hundred years ago running was a sport just for men. Today this seems like a ridiculously antiquated notion. During the 20th century, a series of events, undertaken by women of all nationalities, were the catalysts for change in sport equality. This change had to occur mostly around the perception of whether women were strong enough to run equally with men. Progress has been made, but if you’ve just run a big city spring marathon, it may be hard to believe that some running events still aren’t equal. There is yet more for women to achieve to ensure they are viewed, treated and able to compete in the same way as men.

The history of our sport

Th roughout the 20th century women battled to be included in all running events. Penny Forse represented Great Britain in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal in the 1500m, the longest distance women were allowed to run at that time. “Back then, as a young athlete, I felt it was unfair that the 1500m was the longest event for women, even though I enjoyed running the distance,” she told Women’s Running. “Athletes who ran longer distances had to miss out.”

It took until the 1984 Summer Olympics for women to finally be allowed to run in the marathon –transforming the aspirations of women runners forever

It took until the 1984 Summer Olympics, held in Los Angeles, for women to finally be allowed to run in the marathon. Joan Benoit Samuelson lead from 14 minutes into the race, taking the first women’s Olympic marathon gold – and transforming the aspirations of women runners forever.

“I was delighted when the ‘powers that be’ gradually decided that women could run 3000m, 5000m, 10000m, steeplechase, marathon and ultrarunning without harm, as well as being allowed to do triple jump, pole vault and hammer,” says Penny.

“There had been no valid research at all to support the belief of the male hierarchy that these events were physically harmful or dangerous for women.”

Quashing stereotypes

From the 1980s, female runners faced a new struggle: to climb out of the ‘girl box’ and the stereotypes and pressures that limit equal opportunities for women and girls. They had new goals and fresh motivation, most notably to catch the times, and positions, of men. This year British fell runner Jasmin Paris finished first in the 268-mile Spine Race and Brit Susannah Gill completed the World Marathon Challenge in the fastest time by a woman, and placed third overall, running alongside men.

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About Women’s Running

The weather is glorious, which means it’s time to push our training to another level. This issue, we take on the ultra: and it turns out us mere mortals can take this on! If you can already run 5K (just 5K!) we’ve uncovered a training plan that will take you up to 50K in 30 weeks. We also speak to our inspirational cover star Kerry, on making the journey from non-runner to running coach, and all with a smile on her face. And we’ve got a bumper review section this month, from bras for big boobs to the latest running shoes from all the top brands. Our big issue this month is equality: the more we run, the more we discover inequality in running – different distances and prize money for women (and by ‘different’ we don’t mean better…), and certainly different treatment. Pick up our June issue to discover what’s going on behind the scenes, and how we can work together to bridge the gender running gap.