Tag Archives: Running

Here is a Woman Doing Something Awesome

Every now and then, I find a woman who seems to be doing something totally awesome and I feel like other people should know about it.  This is one of those cases.  As you may know, I am a fan of running and dressing like a complete and total lunatic when I am doing so.  This is actually harder than you would think since running companies tend to produce things that are “tasteful” or “generally considered attractive” in colors that most people think look good.  But, I am always out there on the hunt for something wild.  In this case, my sister consulted me on how to find an insane running skirt for the Cherry Blossom Run, and I found what might be the greatest running website ever, Running Funky.

So, I hit Running Funky on the old Google search and I immediately felt good.  Then I started looking around I felt great.  Multicolored neon patterns.  Check.  Holiday themed patterns. Check.  Ability to buy skirts, tights, or even a unitard.  You betcha.  They have everything I have ever wanted out of running gear.  Now, granted, I have not actually used these products, but they really fit my aesthetic since I am someone who also owns this running skirt.  So, obviously, I will love them.  Plus, they were designed by a runner and runners tend to design great running stuff!

cheetah-haute-pink-running-skirt-web

Anyways, I digress.  Just as I was in neon lyrca heaven, I explored the website a little more and found out Running Funky was started by a woman who has been running forever, and like me, likes to look like a freak show during races.  She also seems to employ all women.  So, truly the best part is that I can dress like a neon idiot while supporting a smalll, independent, woman-owned business.  I love it so much I can’t stand it.  Sadly, my new computer means I should wait before purchasing some sweet gear from Running Funky.  But, fear not, it will happen.  I am running a St. Patrick’s Day race and my birthday is April.  Man, this stuff just makes me just want to get back in shape.  Good work ladies!

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Things that Are Complicated for Feminists to Love: Running Skirts

If you are a runner (or in my case an injured runner), you have probably noticed that running skirts are becoming quite trendy, and for feminists like me, a little bit baffling.  I’ll start out by admitting that I am a huge fan of running skirts, though I feel a bit guilty about it.  When I was 11-years-old, my mom tried to convince me that I should play field hockey and I absolutely refused because tomboy Ashley could not bear the thought of having to wear a skirt to play a sport.  I had always prided myself on playing sports hard and being able to compete with the boys so dressing up in a skirt to do that just seemed insane and ridiculous (Why should girls have to wear skirts to play sports?  What was this 1953?).  So, as I’ve been buying running skirts, I keep imagining 11-year-old staring at me and shaking her head, ashamed of what she has become.  This is my attempt to try to explain myself to my tomboy side that thinks I’ve sold out.  Here are some thoughts about running skirts, which I think proves how cultural norms and social constructions of gender can quickly make a person insane.  Much like pink hats, etc, I think that running skirts definitely run the danger of sending the message that women are not interested in actually running, but would rather “be cute.”  I’ve talked before about how Title IX debates are always packed with arguments about how women are not interested in sports, so anything that can add that fuel to the fire always concerns me.  On the other hand, running is a total exercise in masochism, so it seems hard to believe that anyone would take up running simply because the skirts are cool.  After all, it is much easier to buy attractive skirts for everyday wear and you don’t have to put yourself through a painful run to wear those.  To me, this somehow makes running skirts different from pink hats, though I have to admit, I am struggling with liking the skirts and despising the pink gear.  If there’s one thing about feminism that makes me crazy, it’s that it is so hard to be totally consistent and you always have to grapple with liking things like running skirts, even if you feel you shouldn’t.  On that note, let’s move on to why I think running skirts are cool!

(A recent running skirt purchase, $19.99 at Target)

I will say that running skirts are WICKED comfortable.  From an actual running perspective, they are also great because they tend to have inner compression shorts which reduce the always troubling “chub rub” problem.  I find that this is especially important when you live in a sticky place like Washington, DC.  So, I’m giving them a point over pink hats for having actual functionality.  Also, let’s be honest, I would much rather run in a running skirt than have to slather my upper thighs in Vasoline or runner’s lube.

(Below: I don’t own a hot pink running skirt yet, but I think we all know it’s only a matter of time.)

I think I also like running skirts because let’s be honest, like me, they are not really fashionable at all.  This means that I have pretty much totally embraced them for everyday wear on the weekends (and to be perfectly frank, if I could get away with wearing them to work, I would do that too).  I think they look reasonably OK (though I’m sure my family would strongly disagree, as they do with most of my fashion choices) when paired with a tank top and they are great for hanging around in during the hot summer.  Another point over pink hats for functionality.  (A side note: I also love jersey dresses for this reason – they are like wearing a big giant t-shirt that looks a little more acceptable).  In addition, I’ve found that running skirts tend to come in wacky colors.  Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE wacky colors.  So, while I realize that, yes, lime green and hot pink type colors are not meant to be worn outside of gyms or beds, I’m a huge fan of a zany color during my regular day.  I like to keep it interesting and I’m into cultivating my own eccentricities, so bring on the crazy colors!

Running skirts are also a way to dress comfortably and sporty without looking like Sporty Spice (you know, long athletic pants and a tank top).  This is key.  It’s never fun when you look like a Spice Girl.

Now that I think about it, I have to feel like those tiny little underwear things that the elite runners run in seem a lot worse than running skirts.  Man do those seem objectifying and like you would need to do some serious maintenance to wear them.  I know you can go faster in those things, but can you imagine actually running in them?  I know I can’t!  Though, I think that’s mostly because of the aforementioned chub rub and the fact that the street harassment you would get running in something like that would be unbearable.

(This one is technically a tennis skirt, but in my mind they are the same thing.  This one is also in the mail!  WOO!)

Moreover, running skirts have the potential to make running races more fun.  Each time I’ve run a half-marathon (the longest races I’ve ever done), I’ve insisted on crazy outfits for race day.  If you wear a crazy outfit, people are more likely to cheer for you because you look different, and then afterwards, you have not only a hard-earned race t-shirt, but a funny shirt you wore for the race.  For my first half-marathon, this resulted in bright blue and green outfits emblazoned with our “May Contain Nuts” team name.  People LOVED it.  My second race was all about singlets that were pink, yellow, and orange and looked like those hypercolor t-shirts from the early 90s.  I can only imagine the potential for future races with this new skirt option!  Plus, I played ultimate frisbee in college and I have to say, if that sport taught me anything, besides how to party like a rock star, it was that it’s always fun to do atheltic stuff in costumes/silly outfits with a funny team name.  Makes you feel like a kid again.

As it turns out, writing this has been quite cathartic for me.  Now that I’ve shared all of my thoughts on running skirts to people who probably don’t necessarily need to know my thoughts on such a silly topic, I have to say I feel a lot better about embracing such a stereotypically feminine item.  Because you know what, sometimes it’s all about having fun and being comfortable whether working out or hanging out.  Plus, you never know, maybe running skirts are helping people see that women can be women and be athletic at the same time.  Also, I suppose it’s kind of cool that shorts have always been the more popular option, but just now, women are embracing the skirt.   It’s like we really can run in whatever the hell we want or something?

For more information on running skirts, Kristin Armstrong (Lance’s ex) wrote an article on them (in the most recent Runner’s World – unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be online) and the magazine also reviewed some of the popular skirt options.  I’ll also say that Target has some great cheap ones ($20ish) and www.runningskirts.com/running-skirts.html also has some great stuff including an awesome red and white polka dotted one.

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Women’s Sports and Injuries, A Topic I Know All to Well

In the last year, I trained for three half-marathons and was really loving running until I finally fell victim to the inevitable woman-athlete joint injury that has prevented me from running since basically September of last year. During a lovely training run on a dirt road in Vermont, I felt my something in my hip (which has bothered me since I was roughly 16, almost 10 years) pop. Nevertheless, being the jock and idiot that I am, I ran the Philadelphia Distance Run 2 weeks later and then 4 months after that I was diagnosed with a labral (cartilage) tear in my right hip when I couldn’t complete even the shortest training runs for my next race.

So, I’ve been meaning to reflect on the issue of injuries in women’s sports, and The New York Times is running this article in the Sunday magazine and I think it’s a great starting point for this blog post. The article basically explains that young women athletes are more prone to devastating injuries and those injuries are poorly understood. I think that everything the Times article presents is definitely true, but I also think that one of the real issues at hand is that in the post-Title IX era, we have yet to figure out a good model for women’s sports and I believe that is largely due to the way gender roles influence how we view women and athletes.

The first problem that exists is that I think girls and women’s sports have too eagerly adopted a male model of what it means to be an athlete. Young women athletes, and more problematically, their coaches, assume that for women to succeed they must be tough and play through the pain, no matter what the cost. In my own experience, on an extremely competitive high school field hockey team, that often meant that athletes were benched, for literally almost the entire season (as I was my senior year of high school), if they “made excuses” for their play by revealing that they were injured. It also meant that our female coach berated 15-year old girls to make them better under the pressure of their sports, in a way that was drawn from the model of the tough football coach. I will never forget being 17-years-old and watching our coach scream at one of the larger girls on our team “You’re a bus! No wonder boys don’t ask you out!” while yelling at her to make penalty shots under that pressure. In my mind, that kind of coaching, especially to girls at that age, should be a fireable offense, but instead, the coach was rewarded and celebrated for running a tough team. I don’t think that was the progress women had in mind when Title IX was passed.

Second, we still do not accept female athletes who challenge traditional gender roles by appearing too masculine. It’s easy to see this trend if you read anything about the WNBA or women’s softball or the coverage that celebrated the US women’s soccer team for being good athletes who were also hot. The consequence of that attitude is that women do not properly train to prevent injury. The Times article notes this, but doesn’t explore the context that creates the lack of training. Women are not encouraged to strength train because people still believe that women should not bulk up and women and girls themselves still fears the consequences of getting too big and looking too manly. On the other end of the spectrum, women’s sports that celebrate extremely girlish traits, like gymnastics and figure skating, cause problems because women are develop eating disorders or train so that they delay puberty and in some cases menstruation. It is clear that in women’s sports, the kind of training and preparation women do for their sports is often complicated by notions of what the ideal body image is for a woman in our culture. These concerns were prominent in the 1970s when Title IX was being debated and they are still prominent today.

Third, I think the Times is right that the medical community has been slow to understand women’s sports injuries. I think that is partially complicated by outdated beliefs about women as athletes, most notably the idea that women cannot be very serious athletes and the idea that we do not understand the woman’s body as an athletic body. Here I think my own experience is relevant. It took 10, that’s right 10, years for my hip condition to be correctly diagnosed and I think a large part of that was that I encountered doctors who did not take me seriously when I described my injury and not believing that I could have the kind of hip injury I had, they were blind to the fact that my hip is built wrong (it has extra bone) that has been eating away at my hip cartilage for years (as it turns out, I may have torn the labrum many times). But, doctors didn’t carefully examine my films and always dismissed the problem as tendonitis. As though it was impossible that a field hockey player or runner could have the kind of injury many male football, hockey, and golf players had. I will also note that no one really paid much attention to the development of my hip bones which seems crazy since the injury occurred when I was 16 and just starting puberty! So, finally after 10 years and demanding to be taken seriously, I have been diagnosed. I would bet that for many female athletes, this is not unusual. Sure some injuries, like torn ACL’s are dramatic and easy to diagnose, but I believe many injuries (possibly even ACL tears) develop slowly over time and could be prevented if women and girls were not dismissed as non-serious athletes whining about their pain.

Finally, I think we need a deeper understanding of women in an achievement culture. As women are taught that they need to be superwomen, strong, powerful, feminine, work hard, play hard overachievers, it seems inevitable that they are going to push themselves too hard and hurt themselves physically and mentally. It is clearly time for us to think realistically about what women can and should achieve and think about ways to support them in their endeavors so that they do not have to meet such insanely high expectations to win respect in our culture.

Ultimately, I feel that sure that there is a lot modern medicine can do to learn about why female athletes are so commonly injured, but I think we also need to go deeper and think about the culture of women’s sports. How can we change thoughts and beliefs so women train properly, are treated properly by parents, coaches, etc, and taken seriously by doctors when they are injured?

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Women Don’t Run?!?! Seriously?!?!

When I was five years old, I scarred my arm. Racing boys on the playground was always one of my favorite activities (I LOVED that they hated losing to a girl and they lost to me often) and when I had the lead over one of the boys, he tripped me so he could win, and I ripped my arm open. Twenty years later, I am still running and I am currently training for a half marathon. It’s been 35 years since the passage of Title IX and its guaranteed that, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance, “ essentially guaranteeing women an equal opportunity to participate in sports – along with equal access in all areas of education including admission to college, law, and medical school and the opportunity to participate in previously gender stereotyped classes such shop for girls or home economics for boys. As a daughter of Title IX, my sports career always flourished through field hockey, soccer, track, swimming, lacrosse, and ultimate Frisbee. It never struck me as odd that a girl would enjoy participating in sports.

So, imagine my surprise when I walked into the bookstore to grab the most recent issue of Runner’s World (I was excited about their Winter Fitness issue) and I could not find it. I searched fitness, I searched sports, and I couldn’t find anything. “Strange,” I thought, “Runner’s World is a pretty major magazine.” Then, just I gave up hope; there it was under “Men” right there with those girls in bikinis magazines like Maxim, FHM, Stuff, etc. Oddly enough the magazines for other sports such as cycling, hiking, skiing, and Sports Illustrated were in the fitness/sports section where they belonged. “Maybe it’s a mistake I thought,” but upon further examination, this was no mistake. The magazines were being restocked and ALL the running magazines were right there in the men’s section. Apparently, women don’t run or are not interested in running.

I couldn’t help but feel a sense of outrage over running’s classification as a men’s interest. Who was this bookstore to tell me that running is a “men’s” interest? In actuality, women have been running since the beginning of human history. Ancient Greek and Egyptian women ran believing it improved their fertility.[1] Greek myths celebrated Nike, the winged, female goddess of victory (and perhaps the namesake of the incredibly popular running shoes) and Atalantis, the woman who was raised by wolves to become a fast runner. She would only marry the man who could beat her in race. Granted women’s running suffered many setbacks in history including many attempts to discredit women’s running; women were not officially allowed to compete in the Olympics until 1928. They could not run the 1,500 meters until 1972 (the same year Title IX passed) and the women’s marathon was kept out of the Olympics until 1984![2] Through all of those challenges, women kept running, either in their own events or as bandits in the men’s races. Currently, running is enormously popular among women who run for competition, companionship, charity, the challenge, or simply just to feel good and healthy. Like men, women run and have success at all levels; from the woman just trying to make it through her first mile on the treadmill as part of her New Year’s resolution to the women who win major, elite races. Runner’s World has even been edited by women such as Claire Kowalchik (also the author of The Complete Book of Running for Women) and many of its writers and editors are women. The magazine is clearly written for a co-ed audience. So, why is it I have to go to the men’s section to find a magazine about a hobby many women and men enjoy? Is someone trying to tell me that in 2007 someone still believes women cannot or do not want to run?


[1] Kowalchik, Claire. 1999. The Complete Book of Running for Women. New York: Pocket Books.

[2] Ibid.

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