501 women can’t be wrong

500 Senior Women from running clubs all over the South of England ran the South of England Cross Country Championships race with me on Saturday. The winner finished the 7.5km course in 30:34 and the 501st finisher in 1:37:41. Being around so many women who were there to run at whatever their race effort was reminded me how important it is to support the running clubs that started and have developed to support female runners for many decades.

photo © Andy Waterman https://twitter.com/andywaterman

photo © Andy Waterman https://twitter.com/andywaterman

Supporting and encouraging more women to run is a hot topic right now. There are a lot of great organisations working hard to champion equality. There are also a lot of brands creating products, events, and hashtags to support women running too. I want us as women to be critical about what these brands are doing and what their long-term impact on Women’s running actually is.

Adidas recently requested use of Finsbury Park for a 3 week long event to promote their new female-specific shoe. As a member of the local community I saw the proposal in early January and sent an email to the council asking for more information and to submit my opinions on the proposal. Adidas claims their event would encourage more women to run and create a, “safe haven for women to run in the dark, cold winter nights.”

Great idea for the 3 weeks the event is on. Finsbury Park is not the safest place after dark and I have experienced some dangerous incidents myself and heard of a lot more on message boards. What is this event actually doing to improve the safety of local women who use the park outside of this event? This is the concern I have brought to the council and requested they take this issue seriously in this application and in future planning meetings. I would like to see brands who are using the park for their promotion investing in long term improvements. One cool example of this was that the US Olympic Committee paid to refurbish the Mile End athletics track in the run up to the Olympics so their team could use it in preparation for the games. After the games the athletics track was donated back to the community and is now a well-lit safe place for everyone to use.  The whole goal of any PR event is to increase sales and profit. Put some of that profit back in the communities you use.

Haringey council have not replied to me about my feedback.

I saw a quote on twitter recently that said, “If you have time to criticize you have time to work harder.” I’ve give out my fair share of critiques about equality in sports, and this year I’m focusing on working harder towards equality. I’ve committed to obtaining my Coach in Running Fitness so I can continue to put on events with my running club that create, a safe haven for everyone to run in the dark, cold nights… 50 weeks a year (even coaches need Christmas holidays).

I want to make sure that my running club remains a welcoming and supportive place for women and all runners, whether there is a new shoe to sell or not. I have worked with brands before and will again in the future. I don’t think aligning yourself with a brand or a brand’s project is a bad thing but it is important to be critical and keep pushing for more results.

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7 thoughts on “501 women can’t be wrong

  1. pippypoppy85

    Love this post Laura – you’ve reminded me to think critically!
    Also, good work on the cross country – I’ve heard it was a tough course. Hoping to be there next year!

    Reply
  2. Caitlin

    You make a great point that holding an event isn’t just enough; there has to actually be some well considered action behind it. The triathlon community is dealing with the same thing right now. Their solutions are all “how about women-only events that include manicures?” or “let’s launch a social media campaign!” and meanwhile I’m like “how about we look at how many women work the second shift?” and “let’s talk about income inequality making the oft-considerable expenses of triathlon out of reach for *most* people regardless of gender.” (We’re such killjoys lol.)

    Anyway that cross country race looks hella fun and tough. Good job on getting it done.

    Reply
    1. lauraestewart Post author

      Yes Caitlin! I’m so totally over the “Hey Women are people who do sport too” awareness campaigns that everyone seem to think are revolutionary. Got it thanks. Let’s move on to some more substantial actions that break down the next barriers along the equality pathway.

      Hopefully with the work of us killjoys we’ll be further down the pathway soon enough. 🙂

      Reply
      1. Caitlin

        I appreciate that those campaigns can inspire good feels in people – I know they do in me! – but like you said, substantial actions are in order to deal with these problems, and I don’t feel like I’m seeing that a lot!

  3. MrsB @ Mind over Matter

    I never run in the dark and sometimes even during the day I don’t feel very awesomely safe deep in Wimbledon Common. So I run during lunch breaks and then I always count how many women vs how many men I see out running (lots of people run near Canary Wharf) – it’s usually 1 woman per 10 men. That has nothing to do with equality, etc. but I do think sockets in the changing rooms of offices for hairdryers would help 🙂 I should take on the health & safety people 🙂

    Reply
    1. lauraestewart Post author

      Obviously you can be attacked anywhere at any time of the day no matter what your gender. I’m just bringing it up so that Adidas, and hopefully the female runners in the community, know that it’s bullshit to expect a 3 week event to suddenly solve all the security issues for women in a historically dangerous area.

      Our office change rooms have hairdryers but be careful what you wish for. When someone uses it it makes the change room SO warm that you don’t stop sweating after your run!

      Reply

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