Athletics urged to go the distance for equality
‘This reinforces the idea that sport is for men and women don’t do it properly. We need to change that’
A AMATEUR athletics officials have been accused of antiquated sexism after refusing to introduce equal running distances for men and women on health a and safety grounds.
Campaigners say having women run shorter races than men presents a poor example to children. However, opponents say equal distances would mean slower women being trampled by g groups of men overtaking them.
Yesterday the Essex seniors and under 20s cross country championships were staged in Chelmsford, with both men and women running 10k, a distance recommended by the sport’s governing body, UK Athletics. Previously men ran 12k 12 and women 8k.
The changes follow a decision by the International I Association of Athletics Federations to switch to equal running distances. Scottish Athletics already follows lo the IAAF’s change of rules. Campaigners have renewed calls for all counties to introduce equal distances, backed b by dozens of amateur runners across the country including Sophie Raworth, the BBC broadcaster, who has run several marathons. However, one official at Woodford Green Athletics Club, who asked not to be named, said: “If the women’s races were to be longer, some of them would not have completed the course by the time the men started and would be mown down on narrow trails by men trying to run past them.”
Maud Hodson, a member of East London Runners, said: “Women do not lack endurance and in fact the longer a race is, the smaller the gap between the finishing times. If children ... see men and women running different distances it reinforces the idea that proper sport is for men and women don’t do it properly. We need to change that.”
Ian Byett of the England Cross Country Association, said: “We know women are perfectly capable of running longer distances. However, cross country running is slightly different from a marathon and a lot of ladies said 8km was long enough for them and a lot of men don’t want to run shorter distances.”