Athletes in England are coming together to tackle what they see as gender inequality in cross country running.
Although men and women usually run the same distances on the track and in road races, women’s races are often much shorter at cross country events, sometimes barely more than half of the men’s distance.
A petition calling for the distances to be equalized has gathered over 1,600 signatures and that number is rising rapidly.
Maud Hodson, a keen runner over distances from 60 meters to ultra-marathons, started the petition in December. The hashtag #RunEqual is now taking off on Twitter and Ms Hodson is gathering support from elite runners too.
“Cross country is the only event I’ve raced where men and women have different distances,” Lily Partridge, marathon runner and two-time winner of the English National Cross Country Championships, told The Independent. “It’s time for cross country to catch up.”
Ms Hodson first became aware of the discrepancies when she joined a running club in east London a few years ago.
“Because the differences in distance were often quite big, I felt that downgraded the women’s event compared to the men’s,” she told The Independent.
She’s concerned about the message this sends to the next generation of athletes. “Girls are conditioned from an early age not to aim high, not to challenge themselves,” she said, “and this is part of an insidious message that keeps girls and women in their place.”
At some events, women run 8 km and the men 10 km. At others, the disparity is even bigger. Male athletes competing in the Southern Cross Country Championships in Brighton on 27 January will run 15 km – almost twice the distance of the women’s 8 km course.
Ms Hodson is amazed that, more than five decades years after Kathrine Switzer defied the ban on female competitors to run the Boston Marathon, gender inequality still exists in athletics.
In the decades since, women have…