Cross Country – Gender Equality?

Leaves are changing and the mornings have been brisk which means two things, it’s autumn and XC season! However, one fall conundrum has us thinking – why do collegiate women run shorter distances in XC AND is it fair?

Fast forward 6 months. It’s now track season. The women’s 10k goes off then 20 minutes later the men’s 10k goes off. Then later in the meet, the women’s 1500m speeds off and then the men’s 1500m. Finally the women’s 5k then the men’s 5k. Seems fair, right? Both the men and women race the same distances.

Back track 6 months to October and you will see the collegiate women of XC typically run a 5k or 6k and the men run an 8k or 10k. Even some high school XC races are not equal with some states having the girls run a 4k and boys run a 5k.

Women are able to run long distances and they run them well – just ask Shalane Flanagan, Kara Goucher, Deana Kastor, or any of their peers. Let’s be honest, the longer the distance, the more nervous men get that a woman is going to beat them; women have excelled in the endurance world relative to their masculine counterparts! Take a look at some trail running events and you will see what we mean.

So now typically is where we provide you with some answers of why women run shorter distance in XC but not in track and field. But this time we are at a loss…

Our best reasoning is maybe it was decided that women finish a 6k in the same amount of time a man finishes and 8k in college (which really isn’t the case because a competitive 6k time is 19-21 minutes and an 8k time 25-27 minutes – if it’s a 10k then 29-33 minutes). More realistically the reasoning may stem from the outdated thought that women just could not handle running long distances. But Kathrine Switzer paved the path for women’s running by being the 1st woman to run the Boston Marathon. Not only did she surprise the world by finishing but also because her lady parts didn’t fall out – and yes, it was common thought that IT would happen!

So we really want to hear your thoughts in the comments. Why do you think there is the discrepancy in XC? Should women run the same distance as the men?

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