Tag Archives: women’s running

Feminism and Running

I never thought I’d be writing that title on my running blog. I never even considered that running and feminism were issues that would cross each other, although I guess when you read about women’s fight to be included in marathon racing and the IAAF trying to over turn Paula Radcliffe’s world record, I suppose feminism and issues of equality do come into the sport more often than it ought to. I always feel that where feminism and sociology are concerned I’m a bit naive and a bit thick. But I feel I’m intelligent enough to know when something or someone is being derogatory to women or not.

Yesterday Runner’s World sent a tweet asking their female followers a question:

‘Question for lady runners: has PMS ever struck before a long training run or big race? How did you cope with cramps on the go?’

The few replies they received answered honestly as to how they dealt with it: pain killers, gritted teeth, will power. However there was a tweeter who objected. They suggested that they might unfollow Runner’s World on feminist grounds. Or suggested that she just ran whatever hormonal state she was in. They felt there should be no genderisms in running. I tweeted with this fellow runner that I disagreed and we exchanged a couple of polite tweets  and that was that. But I just wanted to expand on this to explain, in my own opinion, why I don’t think Runner’s World were being ‘unfeminist’.

Firstly, Pre Menstrual Syndrome is a very real syndrome. As a teenager I suffered and it could affect my running. My cramps used to get so bad that on occasion I would pass out from the pain. If I’m honest I always struggle running at ‘the time of the month’. I feel more lethargic, my immune system suffers and I have back pain. So I believe Runner’s World were genuinely asking followers how they deal with these symptoms. Symptoms that are as real as those of IBS, ITBS, PF, CLBP or any other abbreviated condition. They did not mention ‘hormones’ anywhere in the tweet.

Secondly we cannot deny biology. If the tweet had been asking female runner’s how they cope with running while pregnant would the tweet have caused the same reaction from this person? Probably not. The fact is women have a menstrual cycle, men don’t. Women have a womb and ovaries, men don’t. Runner’s World were addressing an issue that affects 50% of the population. For me, to do that rather than leave it solely to publications directed at women means that they are being inclusive of their female readership.

Thirdly I feel that Runner’s World did the right thing asking their female readers. If they’re doing a feature then why not ask their female readers? I would find it more patriarchal if they asked a male doctor what women should do to cope with PMS coming into a race. PMS affects all women differently and as we’ve already established, males don’t have the kit that we do in there, so how can a man have the experience to tell us how us women should manage it. Instead Runner’s World have taken a ‘Twitter focus group’ approach to ask the women who are affected by this how they manage the variety of symptoms it causes (however saying that I was put on iron by a male doctor to manage the anaemia caused by heavy bleeding so I guess my last point doesn’t really stand up there. Bugger).

In a nutshell what I’m trying to get at is that I didn’t agree with the other person. I didn’t see what was unfeminist about the question. Surely to ignore a fact of biology that affects half their readers would be unequal and less feminist. I assume they were working on a feature triggered by inquiries from their female readers. They may be acknowledging that running is becoming increasingly popular among women and are finding ways to connect with them. Maybe it’ll give some insight to men who are eager to blame ‘er bloody hormones’ rather than understand that what some women experience at that time can be as debilitating as a pulled hamstring. Or maybe I just don’t understand feminism and what it is at all. I better go and burn my sports bra.

P.S For the record I find this offensive to my feminist leanings. This picture appeared on the page of a company I follow asking followers on FB to ‘tag’ female friends that they felt the picture applied to. This gave me rage. Or am I being unreasonable? I haven’t included the whole image or the name of the company. I’ve cropped that lower part out because I really don’t get why seeing a women’s buttocks are relevant to women’s sport or fitness. Rather than a ‘what can she achieve’ she is reduced to ‘wow look at her butt’. Am I being a fuddy duddy killjoy?

heavy rep gear

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Toddlers are bad for running health! Fact!

Well I am a runner who’s not doing a great deal of running.

In the last few weeks my calf had vastly improved and I was really starting to up my mileage. I had managed a couple of 50 minute runs. Not on consecutive days as I would have liked, but I was getting there. I was even getting the bounce back in my step. The air was cold, it was wet, I had a new gorgeous purple Nike running jacket and I wasn’t afraid to use it.

My calf was pain free and I felt like my fitness was returning. The plan was to get my running up to an hour or just over and then head back to winter training at the track. Like I say, that was the plan.

About ten days ago I picked up an over tired toddler from his playgroup. In my innate wisdom *cough*  I decided it would be a good idea to walk him to the shops to buy some treats. I wanted to have a nice  stroll there and back but my 2 and a half year old had other ideas. Over tired toddler became grumpy, lazy toddler having a tantrum.

‘Lift me, lift me’

‘No’

‘Pwease Mammy, lift me, up, up’

The walk to the shops usually takes me 20 minutes there and back. We were nearly an hour into the ‘stroll’ and I just wanted to get home. So I succumbed to toddler pleas  tantrums. I took the daft decision to lift him and my bag of shopping at the same time. I leaned over and scooped him up in one arm. He went all floppy and became a dead weight. I felt a small twinge in my small back and , unsurprising really, put him down. Like a mean mother I made him walk the rest of the way while feeding him strawberries to give him motivation.

Over the next few days my back niggled but I put it to the back of my mind. By the weekend I thought it was ok and headed out for a run. Because obviously running makes all niggles go away, everyone knows that *ahem*. This run was ‘kill or cure’. I managed to run for over 8 miles with only a slight calf niggle and nothing, NOTHING, in my back. I felt great. The best I had felt for two months. I was positive and excited about getting back into things.

Yeah right. My 8 mile ‘kill or cure’ run ended up being of the ‘kill’ variety. Seems I’m just not on the running luck list right now. For the rest of the weekend my back and right buttock became more and more painful. Not just an ache but a sharp, searing pain with an occasional pull in my leg. I couldn’t sit or stand. The only way I could get comfortable was to lie on my stomach. It was aggravated even more by a round trip I had to make to London, a 2 and a half hour drive each way. Just brilliant.

I tried stretching. Made it worse. I tried some of my own self physio tricks, Made it worse. I have been waking at 4am in pain for nearly a week now. There’s only so long you can lie there before you just think ‘sod this’ and get up. I have a hot water bottle attached to my back and I’m popping painkillers like they’re sweeties.

Oh. Dear.

Winter training is running away from me and I feel quite gutted. There’s not a lot I can do about it other than wait and rest. I wouldn’t mind if I’d actually done this running but to do it lifting one of my children makes me feel a bit silly. I’m a mixture of frustrated and cross with myself. Yet again my running trainers are sat there going unused because right now I’m a runner who can’t run.

I feel bereft. Lost. Pissed off. Knackered. Grumpy. And I have learnt a lesson the hard way: always take the stroller because toddlers can be bad for your running health.

Running Safe

I read a news article this week about a tragic accident in which a young female jogger was killed. She was jogging across a road and was hit by a speeding vehicle that then sped off. This tragic story reminded me about how important road safety is when running. When we’re running along the road we can’t always depend on the vigilance of other pedestrians and drivers. It got me thinking about things that we can do to stay safe while we’re jogging or running along the roads.

Headphones 

I myself have never run with earphones. I’m not sure why, possible because I was running from a very young age and I enjoy getting lost in my thoughts. For others however the music beats the boredom of the run or helps to keep a rhythm. Listening to headphones does take away our sense of hearing, vital when listening out for traffic. So maybe when you’re wearing headphones, just be a bit more vigilant when crossing roads.

Change your course

A few years ago in Cardiff, there were some incidences of female joggers being attacked while running around a local park, popular with runners. Police at the time encouraged women to try and change the course they run regularly, maybe in the belief that attackers tend to watch runners and work out their regular paths. Scary to think that but it is good to change route from time to time.

Keep it lit

A bit obvious, but if you’re running at night try to keep to well lit areas and wear your high visibility gear. Maybe get a group of you together to run in the evenings if you don’t like running at night by yourself.

Be social

Leading on from the point above, running in a group can be a great idea if you’re not keen to run alone. If you have some like minded friends, get together with them or find a running club to join. The bonus is that running becomes a social occasion too! Check out Runner\’s Web for a list of running clubs or Women\’s Running to find running buddies in your area.

These are just some brief ideas on staying safe that I have learned over the years I’ve been running. They haven’t stopped me enjoying running but it’s always good to keep safety in ind when you’re out on the roads. If anyone has any other ideas on staying safe while running or exercising please please leave a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts.