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.
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.