Michael Boyle is a DOPE.
Recently, an asinine article about why women shouldn’t run has made its resurgence on the interwebs. I had read this composition a while back (maybe four years ago?) but had noticed that just as fast as it had been spread around the web, it was gone. It had crept into the bowels of the internet, right where it should have stayed. Lately though, I have noticed it making a comeback on several web sites and I just cannot keep from throwing my two cents in this time.
(For the complete text of the article, click here.
I will be honest. Taken point by point, Mr. Boyle actually makes a couple of decent arguments. As long as you only consider how women are physically constructed, no, we probably should not run. But you know what? All my life I have been warned of things I should not do, and for the ones I was passionate about and did anyway, I never regretted it. Not once.
For starters, I find his use of Diane Lee’s quote, “You can’t run to get fit, you need to be fit to run,” to be a misleading half-truth. Thee word “run” is relative to each person who participates in the sport. Personally, I disagree with the idea that you can’t run to get fit. No, I am not a fitness professional, but I can tell you that I have seen MANY of my friends get on the path to fitness by taking up running. And by “running,” I do not mean “hard core, sub-6:00, sprint until you vomit” running. At the time when each one started, their own version of running may not have been much more than a shuffle. But that shuffle got them burning calories and getting fitter. And the fitter they got, the faster their feet shuffled. Funny how that works, right?
Yes, running is a hard sport. It is hard on the body. To be an elite runner, I think it is pretty safe to say that you need to be pretty darn fit. However, I do NOT think this means that your body needs to look like Mr. Universe or Ms. Fitness USA in order to compete in your local 5k. I feel like telling people that you NEED to be fit to run is intimidating to people who may be considering the sport. As long as your expectations are reasonable for YOU, I do not feel like you need to be “fit” before taking up running. Running should just be one more tool that you use in your path to fitness.
When it comes to the physique of women runners, I have to say, Mr. Boyle hits the nail on the head. Yes, women with narrower hips and smaller breasts make faster runners. But if you notice, that is not what he said. He said that it makes them better runners. Is speed the only litmus test for what is “good” and “not good” about running? Sadly, Mr. Boyle assumes that all women runners only run to be fast. Being fast is fun, but there are so many other reasons why women run.
Women run for the joy of running.
Women run to relieve stress.
Women run to reach personal goals.
Women run to make friends and build a community.
Women run to set good examples for their children.
Women run to raise awareness for causes that are important to them.
Women run because they want to.
“So what happens when a ‘normal’ woman begins to run? She becomes a statistic. She becomes a physical-therapy client as she tries to shovel you-know-what against the tide. Her wider hips cause her to develop foot problems or most likely knee problems. Her greater body weight causes greater ground reaction forces. Greater ground reaction forces stress muscle tissue and breast tissue. Get my drift yet? The end result is likely to be hurt and saggy instead of the cute and little.”
This last paragraph was really the “icing on the cake” for me. The first time I read it, I seethed. And then my ire turned to pity. I felt bad for this man. And then I selfishly thought, “Please tell me he is not married.” With these words, he is basically saying there are only two kinds of women in the world…those who are 5’ 3”, 110lb female elites and all the other women in the world must be obese and not have any clue what we are doing when we get out on the road. His line of thinking here is so faulty, I almost don’t know where to begin.
For starters, I am a normal woman. I was a normal woman at 5’ 5” and 135lb before my son was born, and I am still a normal woman at 5’ 5” 150lb since having my son. One of my normal woman running friends is 5’ 10” and 170lb. My sister-in-law is a normal woman at 5’ 4” and 115lb. My running buddy is a normal woman runner at 5’ 7” and 165lb. Obviously, there are many shades of “normal” out there. You know how many of these normal women runners I have known to ever visit a physical therapist? None. Not one.
And because we have wider hips, we should stop running? That is just ridiculous. When a woman gets pregnant, her hips widen, preparing her body for birth. After birth, some women are fortunate enough to have their hips go right back to the size they were pre-pregnancy. Other women are left with wider hips. Let’s say a woman was an avid runner before pregnancy, and after the baby, she was left with wider hips. However, she wanted to keep running. According to Mr. Boyle, this woman would no longer be a “good runner” because now she’s bigger. And since she isn’t “good” anymore, she might as well stop, because surely this running mama won’t have a clue how to handle her new body when running. Ugh, do you see where I am going with this? Please tell me I am not the only one who let out a massive eyeroll here.
In addition, all of the points he makes about why women shouldn’t run can easily be applied to why men shouldn’t run. Stressed muscle tissue and saggy body parts only apply to women? Oh, please. Trust me, I have seen my fair share of man boobs at races and, if I think anything when I see them, I think, “Wow! Look at that guy go!” The last thing I think is, “Hmmm, I wonder if that guy realizes that physics is really not on his side.”
Mr. Boyle, let me fill you in on a little secret. Not every runs to win first place. Bigger people aren’t in denial. They know they are bigger…just like I know I am not a size 4. Odds are, if they sign up for a race, they are pretty sure they won’t come in first. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t run. In case you had not heard, running is also good for people mentally and emotionally. And, sometimes, the overwhelming positive mental and emotional effects they experience are a fair trade for the occasional calf cramp or muscle ache.
Maybe I will never be a “good female runner” according to Mr. Boyle’s standards. However, I do know that I can be a “good female runner” according to me, Katie Key. With that, I am going to step off my soap box. After all, I have some miles to knock out before the sun goes down.
P. S. – Someone should also let Mr. Boyle know that there have been great advancements made in women’s running apparel. Sports bras have come a long way and we don’t have to worry about sagging body parts quite as much as we did once upon a time. Besides, how would Mr. Boyle have first-hand experience that running causes boob saggage…he’s a dude.
Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Concerns?