The Boston Marathon Stands Up for Sub-Elite Women


It’s been well-established that this yr’s Boston Marathon was an all-around peculiar day. Adding to the chaos, a post-race controversy emerged about who was entitled to gather prize cash, because the excessive attrition price among the many professionals (23 of whom DNF’d) opened the door for much less established, sub-elite runners. 

Case in level: the 2d place finisher within the ladies’s race was Sarah Sellers, a full-time nurse anesthetist whom even running mega-nerds had by no means heard of. (“Who Is Sarah Sellers?” a Washington Post story requested.) Fortunately for her, Sellers had certified for Boston in a time quick sufficient (2:44:27) that she was invited to start out with the elite ladies, who head out of Hopkinton roughly a half of hour earlier than Wave One. By working with the elites, Sellers was eligible for prize cash. As the 2d place finisher, she gained $75,000.
Many among the many prime feminine finishers weren’t so fortunate, nevertheless.
As the Boston Athletic Association’s (B.A.A.) website explains, prize cash is obtainable within the marathon to the highest 15 finishers in each the lads’s and girls’s races, in addition to the highest 5 Masters (Age 40+) finishers. The caveat right here is that for the ladies, it is just awarded to those that, like Sellers, are given the nod to start out within the elite area, which in 2018 consisted of 44 runners. In different phrases, within the uncommon occasion lady who begins with the plenty runs a quicker chip time than a top-placing elite finisher, the purse stills goes to the elite runner. Conversely, for the reason that elite males begin with the remainder of Wave One, an newbie male runner who manages to sneak into the top-15 can declare a money prize.

Due to the carnivalesque nature of this yr’s Boston, 3 non-elite ladies completed within the prime 15 of the “Open” class, and 2 non-elite Masters ladies cracked the highest 5—a historic first. Per the principles, none of those runners have been eligible to be compensated for his or her efforts.

Jumping on the truth that this obvious injustice wouldn’t occur within the males’s race, Buzzfeed ran an article final week with the headline: “This Woman Placed 5th In The Boston Marathon. If She Were A Man, She’d Have Won $15,000.” Vox subsequently ran an identical (if extra nuanced) story, which additionally picked up on how the principles have been skewed in favor of sub-elite males. To their credit score, each articles cited the Boston Athletic Association’s (B.A.A.) rationale for having a separate elite ladies’s begin, which is normal apply for a lot of main marathons: “As against beginning women and men on the identical time, and in the end having the feminine rivals lose one another amongst packs of males (and probably obtain pacing help), the EWS [Elite Women’s Start] permits athletes to compete with out obstruction,” T.K. Skendarian, the Communications Director for the B.A.A., informed Buzzfeed, including that having a separate ladies’s begin additionally allowed for higher media protection of the race.

In the requisite backlash to the backlash, some members of the running cognoscenti have been irritated at how Buzzfeed and Vox have been apparently giving the story a battle-of-the-sexes spin. 
“This isn’t a gender factor. It’s a contest factor, as in a race to the end line,” professional and collegiate working coach Steve Magness tweeted. “It’s a race. Not a competition to see who runs the best time.”
That’s actually the center of the matter. The non-elite ladies and the elite ladies are competing in 2 fully separate occasions, and the B.A.A. solely awards prize cash for one among them.
Except in 2018. In a transfer that appears like an acceptable coda to a race the place not one of the common guidelines utilized, the B.A.A. introduced yesterday that, what the hell, they’d even be paying out cash to the top-finishing ladies who began in Wave One. As a consequence, non-elites Becky Snelson (14th place), Veronica Jackson (13th), and Jessica Chichester (5th) can be paid $1,500, $1,700, and $15,000, respectively. On the Masters entrance, Brenda Hodge (5th) and Joanna Bourke Martignoni (3rd) will obtain $1,000 and $2,500. These quantities are equal to what elite runners are paid.
“Given the nature of this year’s race, we want to recognize and celebrate some of the performances that made this year’s race special,” Skendarian stated in an e mail explaining the B.A.A.’s resolution.
Following the announcement, I known as 13th-place finisher Jackson, a New York-based sub-elite athlete who completed the race in 2:49:41.
“I feel really grateful that the B.A.A. is giving us this money since they definitely don’t have to. This rule [i.e. the separate start for elite women] was only made with the best intention for women, which I think has gotten lost in this discussion,” Jackson says.
She added, nevertheless, that this wasn’t the primary time she’d missed out on potential prize cash as a result of she’d been denied a chance to start out with the skilled ladies. It’s a problem, Jackson admits, that solely impacts a really small variety of ladies, however doesn’t have an effect on males in any respect.
“I routinely miss out on money for this exact reason, when I fully believe I belong in that field,” Jackson stated. 

It’s value stating that Sellers most likely solely bought to start out with the professionals as a result of her qualifying time was just below the U.S. Olympic Trials “B” normal of two:45:00; there’s no official cutoff time for the professional begin and it’s all the time left to the discretion of race organizers. Sellers wasn’t initially listed among the many elites when the professional fields have been announced by the B.A.A. in January, and will very simply have been relegated to start out with the plenty. In different phrases, among the finest working tales of the yr nearly didn’t occur.

As Jackson sees it, it’s within the curiosity of the B.A.A. to present extra runners like her an opportunity. “The fact of the matter is that men don’t face that hurdle. Do I think the B.A.A. should be chided as being sexist? Absolutely not. But I do hope that because of this, sub-elite women who want to be up racing against those women are maybe given an opportunity. What is the harm in doubling the elite field size?” 

(Editor references)

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