Girls Win Races Too.

Lately I have been avoiding the news and media because it’s honestly pretty depressing and I found getting too deep into it was not contributing to my overall well being. However, my dad called me and followed up with an article link last week that I just can’t ignore because my blood is still boiling. 

A coworker of my dads took her daughter to a local 5k race in Rochester, WA early this month. Rochester is a smaller town not far from where I grew up in the capital city of Olympia. Her daughter is participating in sports through her school and really enjoying running, and they were both looking forward to attending a race together. Her daughter had an awesome run, and was the first woman across the finish line in the 5k as an eight grader. She and her mom waited long after finishing in anticipation of her receiving an award, until they were informed after the ceremony that girls would not be receiving prizes for the race, only the top 3 overall finishers. They both went home confused, frustrated, and sad over her daughter’s performance being completely ignored. Knowing that I was a runner, she called my dad to ask if this was “normal,” which he assured her that it most certainly is not. 

It’s the 21st freaking century. Women are winning races, BIG races, OUTRIGHT. Against competitive fields. How is it that a girl doesn’t get some sort of recognition for winning a race? It doesn’t need to be fancy – my favorite thing I have ever received for placing in a race was a bouquet of local flowers and a jar of salsa donated by a farmer. But especially for an organization whose mission claims to have a “goal of building valuable relationships with youth (ages 11-19) and helping them reach their full potential,” this is unacceptable. Whether it was “accidental” or intentional, it’s still discriminatory. Drop out rates in youth sports continues to be twice as high for girls compared to boys, and although there are many factors at play, these types of discrimination are without question a strong contributor.      

I wasn’t the most competitive kid when I was younger. It took time developing balance in my life, positivity towards my body, and some hard earned self confidence before I could really find joy in training and competing. But participation in sport has drastically shaped the person that I am today and taught me the resilience and tenacity that unquestionably got me through a doctorate, a pandemic, and starting my own business. Running is the reason I now have a healthy relationship with food, provided direction for my career path, and brought some of my dearest friends into my life. I think the part of me that is most hurt by this whole situation is that this organization did not consider how their complete failure to support girls in sports may have shaped this young woman’s future. I am glad she is surrounded by a supportive community that continues to cheer for her and feed her determination and joy in any sport she chooses. I would not be where I am today without sports and without running, and I can only hope that these practices of belittling women in sport and in life feeds our determination to change and grow. 

Run fast, take chances – to Kylie and all my runner girls.