We have three IronGirl (all female) franchise races here in our area, two sprint triathlons and one half marathon. I was talking about the half marathon with my son the other day (I just might be racing it) and he asked me why it was only for girls. “If only girls can race IronGirl, shouldn’t IronMan be just for guys?” he wanted to know. Um, no answer to that.
I get the whole concept–some women, beginners in particular, are going to feel more comfortable in an all-female environment. Less pressure, perhaps more support from their fellow athletes, more camaraderie. But I don’t know. The other part of me feels like it kind of sets us back. Why DO we need our own show? We can hang with the guys any day, can’t we?
I’ve raced both ways and like both race formats. There’s something fun about getting a bunch of girls together and having our own race. But I also like racing with guys, and I don’t feel any less supported or intimidated by these events. No guy has made me feel inadequate or nervous out on a course. Do some of them get annoyed if you pass them on a bike and continually challenge you back and forth for a full 25 miles in an Olympic distance race? Ahem, yes. But that’s just amusing, not nerve-wracking.
Clearly there’s a market for these all-female events. The Disney princess races fill up in no time; the IronGirl sprint triathlon here has sold out in a day more often than not. Heck, hundreds of women shelled out $165 to run the Nike Women’s Half in DC this weekend (sorry, I will never pay that for a half!). Racing is big business these days and organizers are savvy in how to bring in the numbers.
In the end, I guess I’m just torn about whether or not I think there’s a need for all-female formats. Do they truly serve the purpose of bringing females into endurance sports? And how many of those women then gain enough confidence to go on and compete in races with both genders? It would be interesting to know. I’ll remain fairly neutral on the topic for now, but I’d love to hear people’s thoughts and arguments for and against these types of races.
Weigh in, people!