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Racing back in time: OUREA Trail’s Xtreme-ly unequal prizing

The "only race of its kind" OUREA trail offers male athletes bigger distances and more prize money

In July 2020, OUREA Xtreme trail race in Avoriaz, France will offer runners €200,000 in prizing, stated as “unmatched in the world of trail running.” Unmatched is for sure. There will be unequal prize money distribution and racing opportunities for men and women. Female athletes will receive less prize money and will run shorter distances at the event. The new OUREA Xtreme trail race is nothing new at all, and more like a race back in time.

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No, it’s not the pre-suffrage movement. Women will receive less than one third of the prize money as men. Prize money will be awarded to the top 20 male finishers, but only the top five female finishers. Race organizers have until July 2020 to come up with a plan for when (or if) a woman finishes in the top 20. As we know in the sport of trail and ultrarunning, women winning overall is not unheard of.

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Men racing the OUREA Xtreme race course will run seven stages over eight days with 250K and 19,000 metres of elevation. The top 20 male finishers will receive cash awards. The male individual winner of the 250K race will receive €10,000, while the female individual winner of the same race will receive €5,000.

Women racing the OUREA 120K will run over three days gaining 8,800 metres. The top five female finishers will receive cash awards. Of the total €200,000 prize money, men will receive €157,650, and women will receive the remaining €42,350.

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Race organizers justify the prize discrepancy by stating on the website they expect less female participation. However, we can speculate that unequal prizing will not encourage an increase in female participation rates. If history can teach us anything, it’s that discouraging underrepresented groups of people will only maintain systemic inequalities. The regressive prizing structure is unjustified, and organizers are racing into the past.

Start lines of many ultrarunning races are disproportionately male, but that does not justify anyone perpetuating the trend. The race website also showcases six ambassadors–all of whom are male.

Many elite female and male trail and ultrarunners are sharing their frustrations via social media. Camille Herron commented on the OUREA’s Instagram, “why should we embrace a race that doesn’t embrace equality? We should continue to advocate for equal distances and pay and not tolerate inequality.”

Photo: Twitter

The OUREA Trail and Ultra markets itself as “the birth of the only race of its kind in Europe,” and here’s to hoping there are no more races like it. Hopefully race organizers become aware of the message they are sending to people and athletes everywhere. It is possible to use trail and ultrarunning as a platform for changing the inequalities that exist beyond the singletrack.

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