Monday, June 28, 2010

Battle of the Sexes - Hey, It's Over.

I read an interesting statistic in Running Times the other day. Apparently a few years back, there was a flip in the ration of men to women running marathons. It used to be that many more men ran them. Now the trend is in the opposite direction. I don't know if this applies to running in general or simply to that distance. The book, Born to Run made a pretty good case for women being at least as good (if not better suited) as men in running ultra distances.

In my own neighborhood, it is almost a demographic anomaly to see another man running. In my morning runs, I usually pass a number of women. There is a group of three who run at least three times each week. There is a woman of short-stature who seems unstoppable, ambling along at a pretty good rate, looking very fit and fresh. Then there are a couple of others that are out every day really cranking. They look like seriously good fast runners. If I ever fall in behind one of them, I always struggle to keep pace. And there are a couple who run either barefoot or in Vibrams who a pretty seriously committed. There are a few other regulars that I see and know well enough from morning passings to float a knowing glance and a comment about the weather.

And then there are the guy. I see one other gent every now and then. He's usually running with a dog. If I ever see another male, it is invariably someone walking and rarely...very once every two months, another guy running.

So what's going on? I am a bit at a loss to explain it. It does seem as though the men run later. If I go for a weekend run, or run in the evenings, I'll pass some guys. I have two male neighbors who strap on the shoes a few times a week. I also have a co-worker who lives near me who took up running when he saw how it changed my life (I'd really say it as saved my life). But even on afternoon and evening runs, there are always more women out running than men.

In my circle of straight friends (I'll get to why I'm splitting this up in a minute), the women run much more than the men. I can think of 7 women who run, while only three men do. The women in this group seem much more concerned about health, nutrition, fitness, looks, and instilling these values in their children. The men seem more interested in grilling, drinking beer, and playing bluegrass. And I want to say that there is nothing wrong with grilling, drinking beer, and playing bluegrass. But there is a distinct difference in the value given to fitness between the sexes.

Among my gay friends, dedication to running is much more even. My craziest running gay friend is a guy who runs ultras. And he really runs. I saw him running as I was driving in my car the other day, and he was hauling. I have several others who run on a bit more rational level. I'm always in favor of the insane, but I respect the sensible runners as much as the nut jobs. Anyway, the number of men and women in the gay community who run, in my very unscientific poll, seems to be near parity. I'll go out on a limb here and postulate that there is a higher ratio of men who run because of the gay culture's emphasis on youth and looks. Please don't write me yelling about how this is a stereotype. There are countless articles in gay publications that point to a higher consciousness or self-consciousness about looks and youth among gay men. Gyms in gayborhoods all over the country are packed with guys spending countless hours on machines trying to (at least) look fit. So it just makes sense that there would be a higher percentage of gay men to lesbian women who run.

OK enough of the battle of the sexes. The humidity that has settled in on the area has made even early morning runs a bit of a challenge. My normal long runs of 10-13 miles have dropped to 7-8 miles. Daily run distance has remained at 4 miles, but I even feel that distance much more than in the Spring or Fall. For the longer runs, I have been concerned about hydration. I have an Amphipod water system that I use, but I'm not too fond of it. Belt systems constrict. And, even with the great design of the Amphipod, I still hate the sloshing and bouncing of the bottle. Yesterday I tried a new idea. For an 8 mile run, I grabbed a small water bottle and added some EmergenC. I carried it the first 2.5 miles, and then put it down by the side of the dirt road. Since the run had a turnaround point, and was not a circuit, I grabbed the bottle on the way back, and killed it instantly. So I was able to do the run only carrying a sloshing container just over a quarter of the run. Not ideal, but not too bad either. Still though, there has to be a better way... I woke up this morning with another idea that I plan to try out, but probably won't write about (think patent).

That's all for now.

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