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Male-only marathon? Please boycott

5 Jan

I don’t often reblog other people’s content, but I think this is so important that I feel I should share it with you.

Ultra Runner Girl

As an adventure-hungry blogger, I often get invitations to interesting races. In early November last year, I got an email from a Dutch guy named Jan, who invited me to the first international marathon in IranFabulous, I thought. I am so in. Visa issues aside as a Canadian, this seemed like a seriously cool opportunity.

i_run_iran_marathon_banner_small2

However, after I started looking into the registration details, I discovered that it was open to males only. The more I read, the more appalled I became. The slogan of the marathon: “Real men run Iran.”

Are you kidding me?

I wrote back to Jan inquiring about the male-only policy, and he apologetically replied that he had just heard the week before that the authorities wouldn’t allow women to run. He said, “for me that was a reason to pull out as an advisor/ambassador to this potentially great project.”  Bravo, Jan.

While…

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10 Responses to “Male-only marathon? Please boycott”

  1. bgddyjim 05/01/2016 at 2:43 pm #

    Well now this is an interesting conundrum we have here, isn’t it? I’m sure all women should boycott Women only events as well, right?

    Herein lies an incredible rub! Not only do I support my wife doing her women only triathlon at the start of the season, I volunteered for the 2016 event as well (I’ll be riding my bike on the bike course, changing tubes and attending to quick fix mechanical issues on the course). I am there for her at the start and finish of each event, cheering her on too. In other words, I believe very much that women should have their own events so they don’t have to deal with the pressure of having men in the race…

    On the other hand, we have a male only event in Iran and men should boycott it? Never mind the political problems with Iran and their nuclear program, but because they require women to run separate from men (men and women can’t even share the same beaches in Islamic countries, they have dividers up between the two – they can’t use pools together either) for religious reasons men should boycott the marathon?

    Look, I get it. I have no love for Iran and I’d sooner break my legs than run in their marathon but you have to admit… This is on that slippery slope.

    Interesting post. You really made me think this morning and I greatly appreciate it. For the record though, I agree with you suggesting to boycott it, though I absolutely am all for male only events, in the same way I’m for female only events.

    • tamsynsmith 05/01/2016 at 9:54 pm #

      Thanks for your feedback – I pondered similar issues whilst reading the post. I think that if it were a men only event, but that there were equal opportunities for women to run, then I would be OK with it – especially if it were to support a particular issue, such as fundraising for men’s health issues.

      However, it is just not acceptable to treat women as second class citizens. At present, there are so few opportunities for women to participate in sport in Iran and arguments relating to the Koran are mostly nullified by scholars.

      I had an Iranian friend in my tri club (who has since had to return to Iran). When starting at the tri club, she had never swum front crawl, because girls weren’t allowed to do it in Iran (although she was a fantastic breaststroker as that was what women were allowed to do)! All of us found this shocking, but it was only touching the tip of the ice-berg in terms of the restrictions she faced.

      • bgddyjim 06/01/2016 at 12:00 pm #

        I agree wholeheartedly. Your viewpoint wasn’t expressed properly in the original post, thus my comment.

  2. fitballingrunningmom 05/01/2016 at 4:57 pm #

    Whoa!!! That is insane!!! I am in shock!!!

  3. janerunswild 05/01/2016 at 10:11 pm #

    Wow, that is horrible! I guess they have women’s only races but I’m shocked by this!

  4. unironedman 06/01/2016 at 9:32 am #

    Oddly enough, Kathrine Switzer (in 1967, the year I was born) ran the Boston Marathon as a protest against the ban on women in that particular race. Just reiterating the point that, as one of the bloggers said above, it’s a slippery slope. I know nothing of marathon running in Iran, but if they are trying to popularise the sport, then that is welcome, and perhaps it’s the first tentative step in allowing an inclusive marathon for all one day. The gender inequality issue is a live one for sure. My wife and I were only taking about the Women’s Mini Marathon that takes place in Dublin each summer. There’s no way a men-only Mini Marathon would be tolerated or even suggested. And men used to do the race in drag for charity (I did that once) but now they have ‘banned’ men altogether. They also refused to allow a man to aid a visually-imparied runner (http://evoke.ie/news/dublin-mini-marathon-bans-blind-runner), though that was eventually over-turned after substantial protest. Good post though; makes you think!

    • tamsynsmith 07/01/2016 at 5:19 pm #

      Thanks for your feedback. I’ve always been impressed by Bobbi Gibb’s Boston marathon runs as well (she first completed the race in 1966, but unlike Switzer, she was entirely unofficial as she didn’t register as a male): http://www.runningpast.com/gibb_story.htm

      It seems ludicrous that women were considered incapable of running more than 1500m until so recently – especially considering that Marie-Louise Ledru ran a marathon in Paris in 1918 and Violet Piercy ran a marathon in 1926 (although her race may have been closer to 35km). I think women’s 800m was only reintroduced in 1960!

      Other controversial runners include Stamata Revithi who petitioned the Olympic committee to be allowed to run in the 1896 Olympics. She was not allowed but is alleged to have run the marathon anyway. In 1931, Gazella Weinreich, a winner of a 2000 hour dance comeptition, was thought not to have the endurance to run the Baltimore Marathon. She is believed to have run anyway.

      Anyway, back to your comments. I agree that people shouldn’t feel the need to have women only races either. A male friend of mine took part in a ‘Pretty Muddy’ obstacle race last summer in drag. It was entirely obvious to everyone that he is male, but no-one approached him or suggested that he couldn’t take part.

      I’m glad the visually impaired lady was able to run – she’s obviously got enough barriers to overcome and it’s not easy finding the right guide. I was a guide runner for a visually impaired male friend at a 5k last year and it was one of the toughest races I’ve done!

  5. rmarier2014 06/01/2016 at 11:40 am #

    There are gender issues in some parts of the world. This is simply part of the culture of the region and we can hope for change, but I don’t think that boycotting a marathon in Iran will do anything for peace, stability, gender equality, human rights violations etc.

    I have ALWAYS had a problem with women only races. Gender discrimination cuts both ways. There are more women then men at most running events (except the marathon distance perhaps) so the excuse of trying to draw women into a male dominated sport is nonsense. If a race organization sponsors a women only race and they don’t have a men only race, then I assume that they do not want my business and I boycott all of their events. Discrimination should NEVER be tolerated.

    • tamsynsmith 07/01/2016 at 4:57 pm #

      I agree that discrimination should never be tolerated, however, your position as an American male is not reflected in every country.

      I accept that in the US most running events have more women than men, but that demographic split is not reflected in the rest of the world. (The US is ranked #1 in terms of demographic equality when it comes to race entries, but it’s only in the last decade that female entries have surpassed male entries). In Europe, it’s very different. If we look specifically at marathon entries, only 34% of UK marathon entrants are female and in Spain only 8% of entrants are female. This demographic is also reflected in shorter races – parkrun is a popular, free 5k that takes place every week around the world. 10 years ago the ration of male to female runners was 70:30. It is now closer to 60:40 . So, in the vast majority of the world, running is a male dominated sport.

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