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The enduring popularity of women-only races

Women-only races have a strong and enduring appeal, for many reasons

Toronto Women's Run


Women’s races have become ever more popular across the country, and there are good reasons to explain their appeal: they usually offer a supportive and friendly race experience, a way to meet other women runners, and, for competitive runners, the chance to be first across the finish line, rather than “first female.”

RELATED: 3,000 runners again make Sole Sisters event Canada’s largest women’s-only 5K

Some of these races have histories and organization to rival the best-established races in Canada. The Calgary Women’s Run, for example, is celebrating its 40th anniversary with its annual 10K and 5K races on August 26. 


A race’s history of excellence contributes strongly to how a race is experienced by any given runner, and has everything to do with things going smoothly on race day. “A lot of races come and go,” says Cory Freedman, race director of the Toronto Women’s Run Series, which is marking 10 years with a new 10K on May 27, in addition to the annual spring half-marathon, which attracts between 700 and 1,200 runners.

And the Sole Sisters Women’s Race Series in Dartmouth, NS is the biggest 5K in Canada, as well as the oldest and currently the only women-only half-marathon in the Maritimes. (Next year Sole Sisters plans to combine their three separate events into one race weekend.)


Races are generally fun, energy-filled events, but if you’ve ever been to a women-only race, the “fun” factor is magnified, possibly because many female runners feel more relaxed without the competitive atmosphere at mixed races. And never mind the race shirt, participants at the Calgary Women’s Run receive a beautiful piece of handcrafted jewellery.


Freedman, who is also race director for the Toronto Sporting Life 10K, doesn’t see the appeal of women’s races waning anytime soon. “Women’s races continue to offer something unique to women runners,” she says. “We are pleasantly surprised to find that we are now a solid presence in the Toronto running calendar, as we continue to grow and evolve.”