Ath­let­ics urged to go the dis­tance for equal­ity

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Pa­trick Sawer

‘This re­in­forces the idea that sport is for men and women don’t do it prop­erly. We need to change that’

B

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.”

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