Earlier in the week, I read the story of how the Gaza Marathon, an event organized by the UN, was cancelled because the Hamas rulers banned women from participating. Of course I wholeheartedly support the UN’s decision to cancel and would not have it any other way.
How to describe how I feel about the whole situation…it is a gigantic, complex web of issues. The best I can do is to say I am shocked, outraged, and incredibly sad – and that does not do it justice.
The shock comes directly thanks to my luck at having been born in Canada – where I have never had to even think about not being allowed to run a marathon. Be cautious about where I run and fear for my safety during training, yes, but I have always been allowed. It’s always been my right to pay my fee like everyone else, pin on that number, and run that race.
But then I remember that even here – in Canada, the US, the Western World – this wasn’t always the case. Every year on International Women’s Day, I think of the heroic women that I know, and that I wish I knew personally – and naturally, because I am a runner, women such as Silvia Ruegger, Joan Benoit-Samuelson, Kathrine Switzer, etc., etc., etc., are among them – but even more so this year.
I had the privilege of meeting Silvia when I was in elementary school. I listened to her talk about dreams –the Olympic Marathon was simply the example she used to illustrate her point – and I was inspired. At the time, becoming a runner didn’t even cross my mind, so I had no idea how directly she would impact my life.
In January, when I went to Disney World to do the Goofy Challenge, I had the privilege of meeting “Joanie” at the Social Media Meet-Up/Tweet-Up. She was one of 6 people on a panel – one of two women – that included people like Jeff Galloway, Bart Yasso, and Dick Beardsley. I have to tell you, while people clapped politely for the rest of the panel, they roared and applauded with a fervour you rarely see when Joan came up. I know this had a lot to do with the number of women in attendance, but it was very clear that all of the women there knew how directly she had impacted our lives.
I am hoping to meet Kathrine this June at the Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon, as she is scheduled to be there; and if I do I will thank her for directly impacting my life.
If it weren’t for these women, among others, marathon running would not be a common activity for average women like me. Never once, as I learned to run, did I ever have to ask myself if my chromosomes, muscle mass distribution, centre of gravity, hormones or reproductive organs would stop me from running a marathon.
Did I doubt I could do it? Of course.
But never because I am a woman.