Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Fast and Female: Pink or not, good for them

Was browsing Ellie Greenwood's blog recently (man, she fast!) and was interested to see a story about a group called Fast and Female. I googled it to learn more. 

What is "Fast and Female"?

As detailed to their mission statement (in full here), this group is dedicated to "the empowerment through sport of young women ages 9 to 19."

This is accomplished in several ways; mainly by hosting events featuring female endurance athletes and leaders who might serve as role models and inspire the girls to "gain the confidence and leadership they need to reach their full potential in life and sports." 

The group currently operates in Canada only. Ellie Greenwood is one of their ambassadors. 

Trends for women in sports

I've recently been considering females in sports (in running, specifically) which is why this group caught my eye. In particular, the number of men vs. women in ultrarunning is something to consider. There's a large imbalance there; in some races I've seen women making up as little as 5-10% of the total field, though I think the larger races are much more balanced, so that statistic is hardly representative of the sport as a whole.

Based on my own experiences and those of my friends (hardly scientific) I'd say some reasons for there being fewer women in ultrarunning includes the following:
  1. For women who choose to have children, the time and energy required during pregnancy, nursing, and the raising of young children can be a long-term interruption to training and longer-term physical goals (though some navigate through these constraints regardless, it cannot be argued that it's not a challenge).
  2. Women don't consider endurance and competitive events as readily as men, as they are not as consistent with traditional gender stereotypes.
These are highly subjective guesses from a novice ultrarunner. I have no idea of the true reasons for the lowered numbers of females in ultras are, but I'm interested to learn more about it.

After all, the more people that have access to running and to sport in general, the better - better for one's personal health and wellness, better for the family, better for the community.

But, when it comes to ultrarunning and endurance events, women in particular seem to be less likely to take these one - that's interesting! Do they not know what they are missing? Is there something about ultras that is more appealing to men? Or, are there other reasons... and what are they?

But, back to Fast and Female.

The fact that this group exists is wonderful, as is their mission. The extensive use of pink on their website and e-boutique, however, was more than a little offputting... not that I have a problem with the color pink, which is used to great effect and to evoke a certain feeling and emotion in the campaign for National Breast Cancer Awareness.

In the case of Fast and Female, however, I find it hard to believe it will resonate with the majority of females in sports... but, that's a personal opinion, and pink or not, good for them. Our kids, both male and female, need strong positive role models - kudos to Fast and Female for giving such role models a platform.

As for me, I'd like to learn more about women in ultrarunning - what are the challenges that females in their 20s, 30s, and 40s face with regard to ultras, and are they gender-specific, or similar to those that men face?

I don't know the answers, but my little mind is thinking on it... and running on.

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