Monday, January 15, 2007

Should Women Run?!

Athena had a link in her blog to an article by Michael Boyle called "Why (Most) Women Shouldn't Run" which, up front, said it was going to piss people off. Boyle's assertion is that elite women athletes look like men - narrow hips, smaller bust lines, etc. Regular women have the bad Q angles (the angle between the quad and the patella tendon... no Michael, I don't find such information "boring")

It is true that the higher the angle, the more likely you are to suffer knee problems from repetitious activity and overpronation, but these are common complaints of all runners - not just women runners.

He wrote a follow up piece at his website, "Should Women Run, Pt. 2" defending himself.

OK Michael, here's the deal: most people, male and female, think if they start running they will lose weight. It doesn't matter what their gender, their age, their body type or any other factor may be - running is viewed as a weightloss vehicle. The don't know from Q angles ... heck, most of them don't even know about different types of shoes and pay way too much money in the mall for whatever the pimply faced kid without a clue is selling that week.

If you view running as a lifestyle activity - and most people who make it through the first bit of training do, then you learn how to work and adapt your body in a way that it will continue to produce results with minimal injury.

It can be as simple as getting the proper pair of shoes. It can be as easy as a good cross training activity that helps strengthen or adjust the body to adapt. The argument that women have the wrong Q angles for running is the same as saying women with big chests aren't suited for yoga because the original yogis were males with little body fat and far more flexible than the average person. And yet I'd like to see you up against the instructor in the class I go to on Mondays. She doesn't look like a yogi but that woman can bend in positions I didn't think the body could do without damage.

My son is a runner - no two ways around it. Before he knew he was a runner, I knew he was one. I knew because I watched little league coaches instruct pitchers to walk the kid ahead of him (no matter how bad they were) so there would be someone to keep him from stealing second and third on the next two pitches. He couldn't hit, but he knew how to wait his pitch and he could run it out. Further, he taught himself to slide from watching games on TV and could slide into base on a cloud of dust and come up standing. As much as I wish he was a ball player, I knew he was really a runner and encouraged him to consider it.

I wasn't surprised when his high school coach declared, "He has the stride and attitude of an elite runner," when he was a freshman. I always knew that, it was just a question of Gazelle Boy knowing that.

But you know what, I'm a runner too. In spite of nature giving me round hips and a generous chest (which many people would pay big bucks to have leaving me confused and asking, "why?"), I am a runner.

A year ago I wouldn't have believed that but now I do. I believe it because I am one - I just didn't know it until last July. I knew it when I turned that corner in Quincy and saw the skyline of Boston at mile 2 of the Ryka Iron Girl 5K - my first real race - when I heard the Standells sing, "Oh, Boston you're my home." Suddenly, I realized I was home.

I was running and I could see the city that has always been my home and in that instant I knew that I had always been a runner and just never realized it until that exact moment.

While you may say, "Just wait until the injuries come...." I say name one athletic activity where injuries don't come. Swimming? Walking? Table tennis? C'mon, name one thing where you don't get injured for whatever reason. I'll tell you this much, the risk of injury is probably far less with me running than with me sitting in the recliner doing nothing.

So stop trying to force the "all runners strive to be elite runners" vision on those of us who are out there for other reasons.

We aren't idiots (for the record, your statement about not "boring" me with details about Q angles was far more offensive than your elitist conclusions about women and running) and we aren't running for conventional gold. We're running because we do listen to our bodies and our bodies will sometimes roar and sometimes whisper, "c'mon girl, time to lace up the shoes and let's go for a run...."

In those golden moments when it's me, the trail and my thoughts coming together I might as well be the first across the finish of Boston because it feels just as good.


L*I*S*A said...

So true! I can't tell you how many times I tell myself that I run just because I can, not because I'll ever be an 'elite' runner. It's all good!

Athena of Texas said...

All right then! I knew someone would speak truth to Mr. I-wish-I-had-real-power.

Nini said...

Pika... you are a runner :)

Devin said...

What a complete ninny....

It doesn't matter to me if I am an "elite" runner, I am still a freaking runner!