Wait…(Most) Women Shouldn’t Run? Ugh.

27 Sep

Michael Boyle is a DOPE.

Recently, an asinine article about why women shouldn’t run has made its resurgence on the interwebs. I had read this composition a while back (maybe four years ago?) but had noticed that just as fast as it had been spread around the web, it was gone. It had crept into the bowels of the internet, right where it should have stayed. Lately though, I have noticed it making a comeback on several web sites and I just cannot keep from throwing my two cents in this time.

(For the complete text of the article, click here.

These are awesome women runners…

I will be honest. Taken point by point, Mr. Boyle actually makes a couple of decent arguments. As long as you only consider how women are physically constructed, no, we probably should not run. But you know what? All my life I have been warned of things I should not do, and for the ones I was passionate about and did anyway, I never regretted it. Not once.

For starters, I find his use of Diane Lee’s quote, “You can’t run to get fit, you need to be fit to run,” to be a misleading half-truth. Thee word “run” is relative to each person who participates in the sport. Personally, I disagree with the idea that you can’t run to get fit. No, I am not a fitness professional, but I can tell you that I have seen MANY of my friends get on the path to fitness by taking up running. And by “running,” I do not mean “hard core, sub-6:00, sprint until you vomit” running. At the time when each one started, their own version of running may not have been much more than a shuffle. But that shuffle got them burning calories and getting fitter. And the fitter they got, the faster their feet shuffled. Funny how that works, right?

…but so are these…

Yes, running is a hard sport. It is hard on the body. To be an elite runner, I think it is pretty safe to say that you need to be pretty darn fit. However, I do NOT think this means that your body needs to look like Mr. Universe or Ms. Fitness USA in order to compete in your local 5k. I feel like telling people that you NEED to be fit to run is intimidating to people who may be considering the sport. As long as your expectations are reasonable for YOU, I do not feel like you need to be “fit” before taking up running. Running should just be one more tool that you use in your path to fitness.

When it comes to the physique of women runners, I have to say, Mr. Boyle hits the nail on the head. Yes, women with narrower hips and smaller breasts make faster runners. But if you notice, that is not what he said. He said that it makes them better runners. Is speed the only litmus test for what is “good” and “not good” about running? Sadly, Mr. Boyle assumes that all women runners only run to be fast. Being fast is fun, but there are so many other reasons why women run.

Women run for the joy of running.
Women run to relieve stress.
Women run to reach personal goals.
Women run to make friends and build a community.
Women run to set good examples for their children.
Women run to raise awareness for causes that are important to them.
Women run because they want to.

“So what happens when a ‘normal’ woman begins to run? She becomes a statistic. She becomes a physical-therapy client as she tries to shovel you-know-what against the tide. Her wider hips cause her to develop foot problems or most likely knee problems. Her greater body weight causes greater ground reaction forces. Greater ground reaction forces stress muscle tissue and breast tissue. Get my drift yet? The end result is likely to be hurt and saggy instead of the cute and little.”

This last paragraph was really the “icing on the cake” for me. The first time I read it, I seethed. And then my ire turned to pity. I felt bad for this man. And then I selfishly thought, “Please tell me he is not married.” With these words, he is basically saying there are only two kinds of women in the world…those who are 5’ 3”, 110lb female elites and all the other women in the world must be obese and not have any clue what we are doing when we get out on the road. His line of thinking here is so faulty, I almost don’t know where to begin.

For starters, I am a normal woman. I was a normal woman at 5’ 5” and 135lb before my son was born, and I am still a normal woman at 5’ 5” 150lb since having my son. One of my normal woman running friends is 5’ 10” and 170lb. My sister-in-law is a normal woman at 5’ 4” and 115lb. My running buddy is a normal woman runner at 5’ 7” and 165lb. Obviously, there are many shades of “normal” out there. You know how many of these normal women runners I have known to ever visit a physical therapist? None. Not one.

…and so are these.

And because we have wider hips, we should stop running? That is just ridiculous. When a woman gets pregnant, her hips widen, preparing her body for birth. After birth, some women are fortunate enough to have their hips go right back to the size they were pre-pregnancy. Other women are left with wider hips. Let’s say a woman was an avid runner before pregnancy, and after the baby, she was left with wider hips. However, she wanted to keep running. According to Mr. Boyle, this woman would no longer be a “good runner” because now she’s bigger. And since she isn’t “good” anymore, she might as well stop, because surely this running mama won’t have a clue how to handle her new body when running. Ugh, do you see where I am going with this? Please tell me I am not the only one who let out a massive eyeroll here.

In addition, all of the points he makes about why women shouldn’t run can easily be applied to why men shouldn’t run. Stressed muscle tissue and saggy body parts only apply to women? Oh, please. Trust me, I have seen my fair share of man boobs at races and, if I think anything when I see them, I think, “Wow! Look at that guy go!” The last thing I think is, “Hmmm, I wonder if that guy realizes that physics is really not on his side.”

Mr. Boyle, let me fill you in on a little secret. Not every runs to win first place. Bigger people aren’t in denial. They know they are bigger…just like I know I am not a size 4. Odds are, if they sign up for a race, they are pretty sure they won’t come in first. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t run. In case you had not heard, running is also good for people mentally and emotionally. And, sometimes, the overwhelming positive mental and emotional effects they experience are a fair trade for the occasional calf cramp or muscle ache.

Maybe I will never be a “good female runner” according to Mr. Boyle’s standards. However, I do know that I can be a “good female runner” according to me, Katie Key. With that, I am going to step off my soap box. After all, I have some miles to knock out before the sun goes down.

P. S. – Someone should also let Mr. Boyle know that there have been great advancements made in women’s running apparel. Sports bras have come a long way and we don’t have to worry about sagging body parts quite as much as we did once upon a time. Besides, how would Mr. Boyle have first-hand experience that running causes boob saggage…he’s a dude.

Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Concerns?

31 Responses to “Wait…(Most) Women Shouldn’t Run? Ugh.”

  1. SlowTrier at 5:15 PM #

    So glad to have you back blogging Katie! I totally agree… This female 5’11” 214 lb runner with big boobs and wide hips has no intention to stop running. It’s a good thing I make a point of NOT listening to dumb, chauvinistic men…

  2. Tina Wasserbauer at 5:18 PM #

    Wow, this is…wow. I must admit, I am plagued by injury as I train for my first half marathon next February. I do not have a “runner’s body”, I have a 40 year old, mom of three little boys body. I have seen orthopedic docs, had MRI’s, and financed my podiatrist’s vacation home. But guess what?! I won’t stop. I will never stop, running has become my sanity. I may never have a size 4, lean runner’s body, but I will have a sense of accomplishment, perseverance and dedication that only comes from doing something as challenging as running. Thank you for this blog post, it has renewed my fire and my desire to run on….

  3. Buffy at 5:22 PM #

    “You can’t run to get that cute little runner’s body. It’s actually reversed. You have to have that cute little runner’s body to survive running.”

    Are you kidding me!!!! That line really burned me. You can be any size to run!! That whole article is more than asinine!!! I may not be an elite runner….(I don’t look like a man either)…but I am NOT going to stop running either!!

  4. Matthew at 5:55 PM #

    Love this!

    My wife dragged me into running a few years ago and we haven’t looked back since.

    I used to be the guy with physics not on his side, but thanks to running I’m down about 60 pounds and happier than I’ve ever been.

    We started by barely running 30 seconds at a time, and now my wife is a half-ironman and I just completed my first marathon. No, we don’t win, but there’s way more to running than winning.

    Oh, and she’s still running even though she’s 22 weeks pregnant… I can’t imagine what he’d have to say about that!

  5. Paulette at 6:16 PM #

    This blog post is awesome! I can’t believe he used the term ‘cute and little.’ Ridiculous, and makes me angry. I definitely fall into the ‘normal’ woman category too and I’m not quitting!

  6. Roz Batson at 7:33 PM #

    Love it Katie – you go girl! You have said everything I would have thought and I love the pics that go with it. What is he so afraid of that he doesn’t want women running? He needs to read Chris McDougalls, Born to Run and realise that women are better at the longer distances than the shorter ones and for very good reasons, wider hips and all. This mother runner will never give up even if I have to go to the physio. Running makes me happy.

  7. todkehrli at 9:08 PM #

    I think Mr. Boyle takes 1 fact about differences in anatomy and supposes implications it to an absurd level. He discounts:

    – The fact that running improves bone density, a major quality of life issue as you age.
    – The fact that proper running form can reduce stress on joins and prevent injury.
    – The fact that cross training and stretching do the same.
    – The fact that overtraining and over-exertion are key contributors to injury, not physiology. If you run/walk at a pace that matches your health and conditioning, you are less likely to be injured.

    I think the greatest evidence against his argument is the fact that running and competing in races is growing in popularity in women at a higher pace then men. If this was leading women to PT at a high frequency, I doubt the numbers would be growing.

  8. Nina @ Sweating It at 9:20 PM #

    Great post! I love it and wholeheartedly agree with all your points 🙂 And it’s nice to see you in google reader again!!

  9. Tina Garstad at 5:17 AM #

    I wanna punch this guy. What an ass. And other names. So so irritating to read his pap. Eye rolls and indignation abound. Each and everyone of us should be monumentally proud of our achievements. He sounds like “fatty voice”. And I hate fatty voice. That defeatist attitude that sneaks in and tells you that despite finishing a marathon you are not good enough cause you didn’t finish it in under 4 hours. Man!!!!! Oh I feel a rant coming on. I better stop now.

    • Tina Garstad at 5:21 AM #

      Furthermore if I stopped trying I would be so unhappy. A year and a half ago I was 215lbs and could barely manage a 10k in an hour 18 mins. Today I am about 175lbs. I have run 11 half maras, 2maras (ok i might be crazy and have overdobe it a bit) and do my 10k in an hour and 3 mins. Eff u buddy I feel fan freakingtastic. Keep running ladies. We Rick!

  10. Kait (@runKaitrun) at 6:06 AM #

    this guy is a tool. great post, i loved it, thanks for making your points and bringing great perspective to a poorly written article.

  11. Jessica Daugherty at 6:36 AM #

    Wow I cannot believe he had the nerve to think or write such foolishness. Thank you for being a voice for “real women” runners. I am a real woman who is a runner. I run not only to be fit (I’ve lost 100+ pounds) but also to have clarity and relieve the stress of being a wife and mother of 3. Running makes me happy 🙂

  12. lifeisarun at 7:41 AM #

    Haven’t read his words yet but good Lord! He sounds like an idiot! There are so many words…..not sure we should use all of them. We’re just going to keep running and prove him wrong!

  13. Erica M at 7:52 AM #

    Wow! Doesn’t he know his arguments can be used against men as well! All runners, elite or beginners, fast or slow, fat or skinny will get injured if they build mileage too quickly, incorporate speed work too soon and try to do more than our body can handle at any given time. It’s really that simple.

  14. Jeanine at 8:16 AM #

    As one of those “heavier, slower” runners at 5’5, 145 lbs., I really appreciate you not only posting the original article, but then taking the time to write your response. I do get discouraged because here at work I am surrounded by girls half my age, smaller, faster, etc. and I have to constantly remind myself why I run – and it’s not to be the fastest. As I prepare for my second half marathon tomorrow (and one that I am hoping to not “just finish” but PR in a good time for me), your blog really made me feel great. Thank you!! And the original article? Complete crap. 🙂

  15. Katie Cummings at 8:26 AM #

    I totally agree with you, what a loser this guy is! I read the link to the full text, but did someone publish this asinie article?

  16. Lori at 9:43 AM #

    Katie, can I get on the soapbox with you? I read this article a while back as well and when I did I came to work the next day and jumped up and down on my soapbox about it! My eyes were rolling way before the point in which you asked (they may have even gotten stuck). Men like this were the ones who prevented women from participating in many things JUST because they were women. RIDICULOUSNESS! I thought they had all died off but apparently not. Surely, they have to realize by now that women can do almost everything that men can do (obviously, with a very few exceptions). UGGGG is all I can say about people like this without offending anyone. Thank you for jumping on your soapbox and bringing light to this ridiculous article!

  17. Amanda at 1:04 PM #

    I feel like he’s actually trying to say that fat people shouldn’t run instead of just larger women. What a douche. I have a smaller frame with narrow hips, and I still get injured and am slower. So I really don’t understand how he’s coming up with these conclusions.

  18. I know I am not going to win anything during a race anytime soon other then my finishers medal. But I can move my fat butt fast enough and complete races of all distances. I run as fast as I can, but no one is going to tell me me I am not going to be able to do something.

  19. ernise at 8:45 PM #

    Well said Katie! So many stereotypes are blown with your piece. Additionally, if the writer would attend any of the 5Ks, 10Ks, 13.1s, or 26.2s I’ve attended he would see the spectrum of women runners! His comments would be shot to h*ll out of the water!

  20. ernise at 8:42 AM #

    Reblogged this on Giving Thought | Giving Sight and commented:
    Great post by Katie! As always, she’s on point with the counter-arguments to the article she’s referenced. Definitely worth the read!

  21. I’d like to meet Mr. Boyle in a dark alley… *ahem… I mean…* a well-lit track or a hilly trail race. Interesting that he completely ignores the fact that women are more likely to complete ultra marathons than men are (as a proportion of starters). Silly, silly boy.

  22. krissy m. murphy at 2:15 PM #

    LOVE this.

  23. Well said! I saw that article floating around and was a bit surprised. Way to set the record straight.

  24. racingthestates at 6:15 PM #

    loved this post! I read it a couple days ago, but my internet crashed before I had the chance to post something!

  25. thismomsgottarun at 1:48 PM #

    Thank you for writing this – from another to big to run woman. I am now down 24+ inches and I no longer have high cholesterol, all thanks to the fact that I started running 9 months ago.

  26. Run Lily at 1:59 PM #

    well said Kaite.

    I remember that article when it came out and thought WTF?!?!?!!??? Ugh. Mr Boyle is seriously a Dope, (Dope is actually too kind of a word). Randomly a “non/anti-runner” will throw that article in my face and say “see we shouldn’t run” DESPITE the GAZILLION other articles, facts, studies showing the countless benefits of running. This 1 stupid article is the one they hold dearer than the bible. GRRRR

    Oh the harm and frustration you have caused Mr. Boyle.


  27. thismomsgottarun at 9:43 PM #

    Reblogged this on this mom's gotta run and commented:
    Going to try this again, here is Katie’s thoughts on the Mr. Boyle discussion on why most women shouldn’t run.

  28. Lara at 1:23 PM #

    It is a good thing for Michael Boyle that I DO run. It
    improves my ability to deal with idiots like him.

  29. Carol at 9:10 AM #

    I needed PT while training for a 15K for my Achilles tendon
    and you know what, I was struck by the number of men at PT for
    running injuries too! Please dear god, spare us from judgemental

  30. LoAn at 9:30 PM #

    I started running about eight months ago. (Never ran in my
    life! Didn’t think I even knew how to run!) I’m running twice a
    week and have participated in several 5Ks and a 10K. I’m glad I
    have not seen his article before for surely it would have scared me
    from even attempting this wonderful sport. More than keeping
    physically fit, running gives me that terrific mental
    reward/satisfaction that I’m actually doing something I never
    thought I could!

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