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The race that’s taking action on gender inequality

High Lonesome 100 mile race is paving the dirt for policies on gender equality in ultrarunning

It’s no secret that men outnumber women in ultramarathon races, especially in 100-mile races. As the ultrarunning community talks and analyzes the gender inequalities that exist, High Lonesome 100-mile race directors Caleb Efta and Kelsey Banaszynski have taken action. On June 25, the race announced a change to its equity and community policies. The update states specific consideration for gender, pregnancy, and transgender and non-binary runners. High Lonesome is paving the dirt for future policies on the inequalities that exist in ultrarunning.

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Photo: Mile 90 Photography

July 26 will mark the third year of High Lonesome. The course runs through Colorado’s Sawatch range, gaining 6,858 metres in elevation and topping out at 3,995 metres. Due to its popularity, the race will implement a lottery system, effective in 2020. Efta and Banaszynski collaborated to construct lottery policies to address the under-representation of women, transgender and non-binary athletes and new parents that are often apparent in ultrarunning.

As a new race, High Lonesome has the opportunity to develop a lottery system that takes a more aggressive approach to addressing inequalities. The High Lonesome Lottery will split entrants 50/50 by gender–the first ultrarunning race in history to do so. Unless you’re in the women’s washroom lineup at an ultra, the downside of inequalities in ultrarunning outweigh the benefits.

Photo: Mile 90 Photography

The lottery also states that transgender males and females undergoing hormone therapy can register based on the World Anti-Doping Agency benchmarks. For new parents, regardless of gender, the High Lonesome Lottery allows deferred entries if a runner becomes pregnant, gives birth, or adopts a child between registration and the race.

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One cannot deny the inequalities of underrepresented groups in ultrarunning. “As a middle class, white male in the US, I’m one of the most privileged people on the globe. Equality and fairness are really important to me. We’re confident that if we didn’t do a gender split, we’d perpetuate a system that prevents women from participating at equal levels,” explains Efta.

Photo: Mile 90 Photography

The 2019 Western States 100 had a record-breaking 26 per cent females at the start line. As the oldest 100-miler in the world, the ratio of men to women remains significant. Earlier this year, Western States and Hardrock also updated their lottery policies to address inequalities. However, in most 100-mile lotteries, every ticket is treated as equal.

High Lonesome’s lottery policies, focusing on equality of outcome, were not created overnight. They are the result of a 15-member advisory board that brainstormed and collaborated with partners such as the National Center for Transgender Equality for ways to make the race more equitable. No policy is perfect, but High Lonesome is taking action rather than simply talking about the discrepancies that exist in ultrarunning.

Photo: Mile 90 Photography

Whether you enter the lottery for next year, volunteer, or crew or pace a fellow runner, High Lonesome’s efforts to promote equity and inclusion will shine. When the going gets tough at mile 83, Blanks Cabin women-only aid station will be encouraging all runners through to the finish.

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