Many runners, both male and female, are nodding their heads in agreement today as they read British runner Tom Fairbrother’s tweets about how privileged male runners are, and the disadvantages faced by women runners. From the relatively minor (boxy “unisex” race shirts designed for men) to the distressingly urgent (being catcalled, threatened or attacked while running), Fairbrother apologized “on behalf of men for the s–t you have to put up with.”
Fairbrother is a 2:34 marathoner and triathlete and the founder of #trainbrave, the organization that raises awareness of eating disorders and RED-S among athletes.
For a while now I've been thinking about how lucky and privileged being a male runner is.
It has to change. Here are some of the reasons why 👇#ukrunchat
— Tom Fairbrother 🏃🏼 (@fairboyruns) March 19, 2019
Here are a few of the things Fairbrother proposes need to change in order for women to feel safe and comfortable running as men do, and for them to be taken as seriously as men are:
Race T-shirts: “I’ve never been given a women’s shirt to wear, so why do women have to receive what is basically a tent for their efforts?”
Toilets: “10 minutes before every race you’ll see a bunch of guys weeing in bushes, whilst a big queue of women wait for a portaloo. So how about we either get more portaloos, or instead more urinals so that women can actually go to the toilet and warm-up for a race too?”
(Note: at races in Europe, we have seen temporary, multi-sided, open-air urinals. Are we ready for these in North America?)
Safety: “Every female runner I know has to plan their running routes around where they may or not get attacked. That means sticking to (or avoiding) bus routes, staying away from parks and river paths, and carrying alarms.”
Also: “I can run down and street safe in the knowledge someone is not going to comment on my arse, or tell me I’m sexy–or the best yet, bib [honk] their horn at me. This is totally unacceptable.”
Crummy behaviour: “Spoiler alert guys–there are women who can run faster than you. If you get overtaken out on a run, don’t make comments or worse, embarrassingly speed up to try and keep up or race them.”
Race schedules: “Why does the men’s/boys race always have to be “the main event” regardless of the standard or quality of entrants?”
Different distances for different genders in cross country: “How in 2019 we still have shorter races for women is nuts. If women can win ultras outright, they can definitely manage 8K around a damp field.”
There were others, but you get the gist.
Fairbrother’s conclusion: “I guess the moral of this thread is essentially–I’m sorry on behalf of men for the s–t you have to put up with. If you are in a position of power to do something about these things, then do. I get many of these things are ‘because it’s cheaper’ but it is just wrong.”
One commenter wrote, “What virtue-signalling tosh” (British slang for ‘nonsense’). Another said that “Probably anyone that runs for recreation could be quantified as ‘privileged’ (he has a point). One pointed out that if parkrun (which is not-for-profit) can give out women’s T-shirts, race organizations should be able to. Several commented on the safety issue (which is exactly why runs like The Secret Marathon 3K were invented). And one rightly pointed out that running for recreation is itself a privilege, regardless of gender.
Most of the comments were positive, and many were from men–indicating that, like Fairbrother, they recognize their role in the conversation to make running safer and more inclusive for everyone.