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So I am just going to say this right from the off.

I am not the biggest fan of cross country running

I’m sorry, I’m just not.

The cold. The mud. The hills….I just can’t always face the idea of it, let alone the reality.

Plus, I had to do it back in school in the 90s wearing brown PE knickers and that my friend is enough to scar a girl for life, so no it’s not really my bag.

However, I have huge admiration for my running buddies who do partake in this aspect of running, and one of these days when I am not so exhausted from a busy spring and summer race season (and just life generally), I might well do some cross country races through the winter…never say never right?


A few weeks ago it was brought to my attention by a lovely lady at my (real life) running club that a race she had entered into had different distances for men and women, and as the hard core runner she is, she didn’t want to to the lesser distance. At first I thought I’d be grateful for the shorter distance, but then after thinking about it I realised how bias that was…and that we should at least be given the choice…besides maybe there are some men who would like a shorter distance too.

A few days later she posted this,

Following the recent discussion about unequal distances for men and women in XC races, I’ve removed my name from Race Entries for the Essex Seniors XC on Jan 6th. From now on I will only compete at events where the distances are the same. I can no longer square it with my conscience to be complicit in a system which does not treat men and women equally.

And she is right.

Women & men race over the same distances on the roads and on the track at races without any problem, but in cross-country it appears the women’s races are often much shorter, sometimes barely more than half of the men’s distance.

For example, at the SEAA Main Championships the senior men run 15K while the senior women only run 8K. That is as if the London Marathon was 26.2 miles for men and only 14 miles for women…which is ludicrous. I thought these days had well and truly passed.

And as a recently posted petition on 38Degrees to get this issue addressed so rightly points out.

This both downgrades the women’s event compared to the men’s, and sends a message to girls that they are not capable of as much as boys. Sport should be empowering girls and women, not keeping them in their place.

It is 33 years since the women’s marathon was included in the Olympic Games. The IAAF have equalised the distances run in the World Cross-Country Championships, and Scottish Athletics have done the same for their national championships. It is high time competitions in England followed suit.

If you think this is unfair and unnecessary please show your support by signing this petition. There are currently 222 signature received  with a target of 300 needed.

You don’t need to be a fan of cross country, a woman or even a hater of brown PE knickers to realise how archaic this practice is…so please show your support.

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