TORONTO September 5th. Digital Champion Christa Davidson is a recovering alcoholic of two and a half years and has used running as a way to stay sober; instead of drinking she runs. On her particularly challenging days, she just runs farther. As Christa says, “Running is not simply something I do, it is what makes me who I am.” Connect with Christa on Twitter @ChristaDavidson on on her blog.
See Jane Run: Women and the Marathon. By Christa Davidson
When I was growing up, I knew no gender boundaries. My dad would take me outside to play catch and he would put everything he had on the ball, and I would confidently catch it every time. I would grin at him and ask him if that was all he had. He threw so hard my hand would sting, but I never complained. My dad taught me to make the sturdiest wood piles and I knew how to make a fire by the age of seven. I put up tents, changed the oil in my car, knew how to work a blow torch…you get the idea.
I am not used to being treated poorly, unfairly, or disrespectfully because I am a woman. That is why earlier this year, I was surprised to realize that competitive running wasn’t always a possibility for women. It was a naive realization, but given my own experiences, it just never occurred to me.
Meeting Katherine Switzer in June at the Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon was an eye opener. Katherine was the first woman to officially enter the Boston Marathon in 1967, 5 years before women were allowed to register for the race! Despite being physically attacked by race officials on the course, Katherine finished the Boston Marathon. After hearing her story, I could not fathom being denied opportunities or having doors closed to me, because I am a woman. Women were thought too fragile to run. Men thought our uterus would fall out or be damaged if we ran long distances.
I am grateful to be living in a time in history where women in Canada can contribute to society as mothers and runners. We raise families, we are educated, we work, and if we want, we run! To me, those four things are bound together to frame my life and without any one of those cornerstones, my life would have less meaning.
It appears that I am not the only woman who feels this way. The Canada Running Series registration numbers over the years have seen an increase in the number of women participating in their races, particularly the STWM half-marathon. Women typically account for 55% or more of half-marathon runners! For the marathon, the percentage of women running is also steadily increasing. In 2004, 36% of runners registered for the marathon were women. Today, 39% of runners registered to run the marathon on October 20th are women.
Training for a marathon isn’t an easy undertaking. Physically it is demanding, and logistically it can seem impossible some days. Adding 10 or more hours of training on top of laundry, grocery shopping, food preparation, housework, looking after the kids, and spending time with your partner can seem like another full time job. It is a tricky business, but women were created with the stamina and endurance to do it all, which is why we’re so suited to running marathons. Understanding that running long distances was once denied to us makes the sacrifice of getting up at 5am to train (because that’s the only time we have to do so) worth every kilometre.
If at some point you struggle on race day, remember women like Katherine who went to great lengths and sacrifice to secure this moment for you. Hold your head up, pick up your feet and run knowing that they did it and so can you!