Sunday, 11 September 2011

Cherry Hinton 10k fun race

My weekend has been full of running. After yesterday's parkrun, I engaged today in a new challenge: my first 10k race. I hadn't yet attempted this distance, having spent most of the summer running 5k races, but in preparation for my half-marathon in November, I must start on longer distances.

The village where I live, Cherry Hinton, now a suburb of Cambridge, has embarked on a week-long celebration of its community spirit. The 25th Cherry Hinton Festival started today with a village fun run, organised by a local triathlon club named "the Spartans" (inspired by the film "300", it transpired). The event comprised of a choice of a 5k, a 10k or a family relay event.

I bravely entered the 10k, not sure if I would master the distance, never having run so far or so long before.

The course, circling the village, was a 5 km loop on pavements, repeated twice for the 10k race. Basking in a gloriously luminous sunny Sunday morning, we were earnestly off at 10am. For once, I actually enjoyed my run. Perhaps I took it easy, concerned about the distance, but the first loop felt an awful lot better than my usual 5k pieces. And in the end, I managed to complete the 10k in under an hour. My watched clocked a respectable 58:45, which considering I had to stop at the railway crossing to let a train by, wasn't bad at all.

I also got my first race medal! None of previous races came with a nice keepsake, I giddied like a child on Christmas morning.

 And the actual medal:

However I have absolutely no idea where I came in at, as -rather oddly- at post-race presentation there was only a unisex category! "What about the women's race?" I asked, after the prizes were given out to the top three overall (and thus male) runners. "There is no women's race" came the replay "this is a Spartan race!", meaning presumably that women were expected to take part in races alongside their male counterparts like they did in ancient Sparta.

It took me a while to realise why this alleged "parity" bothered me: women in ancient Sparta enjoyed more freedom and rights than anywhere else in the classical world (and for many centuries afterwards too). Yet, women and men -plainly- are not the same. Pitted against each other, it is rather obvious who comes out on top. In a race against men, no matter how hard I tried, all I could be is a weak man. I am not interested in being a weak man, I want to be a strong woman. Hence the need for gender-separate races, hence the need to celebrate the achievements of our great sportswomen, on their own terms.

True equality, in sport just like in life, passes through a celebration of our diversity, not a narrowing of every individual to the measuring stick of the alpha male. And the same argument applies for the Paralympics. And of course, in ancient Sparta there would have been no Paralympics. So, no, I am not a Spartan...

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