Gender Equality in Cross Country
CIS motion to equalize race distances rejected...
Cross country running is the great equalizer of distance running where the best distance runner is crowned whether they are a 1500m or marathon specialist. Recently the push to equalize race distances for men and women has grown and debate has continued. This recent Trackie forum post with over 30,000 views and 400 replies is a prime example. [READ Gender Equality in XC Redux FORUM THREAD...]
The IAAF just recently changed the cross country world championships distance to 10KM for both Senior Men and Senior Women and are encouraging its National-level counterparts to follow suit. [READ IAAF Competition Rules...] These changes will not take affect until 2017 at the Cross Country World Championships in Kampala, Uganda. This is good news but this change only applies to the Senior category keeping the Junior distances at 8KM for the Boys and 6KM for the Girls. I sincerely hope the IAAF has plans to implement similar changes to the Junior category because it sends young girls the wrong message by keeping the younger categories at different distances. Many of the US States have moved towards cross country races having the same distance for both men and women.
There is a global movement towards equalizing cross country distances for men and women and I do believe it will eventually occur everywhere but the CIS took a step in the wrong direction when it voted down a motion for gender equality and equalizing race distances for men and women. In an excellent article, Canadian Running Magazine discusses the issue and includes responses from coaches who where in attendance, [READ CIS XC rejects motion to equal distances for men and womens races...]
My opinion is that this shouldn't even be a debate because the status-quo is sexist and gender discrimination, going against being "ethically driven" a value in the CIS strategic plan. And I don't understand how some coaches rejected this motion for equal distances, especially when the IAAF just recently equalized them. It is important because making the distances equal for men & women removes the false notion that women are lesser and can't run the same distance as men. It also makes the sport more open and inclusive! Inclusive is what sport should be and that could help increase female participation in the sport.History shows that fighting for equality, whether it be based on race, sexual orientation or gender will always succeed and voting against it futile! Its inevitable that cross country will have race distances equal for men and women at all levels, however the unknown is when and what roll will Canada and its Governing Sport Bodies will play in bringing about these changes? Will we be leaders in bringing gender equality to the sport of cross country and which one will be first to makes the changes and implement them, Athletics Canada, CIS, or OFSAA?
Fighting for Gender Equality in Cross Country Race Distances in Canada
This fight to make cross country distances equal for men and women is not a new one and Pierre Mikhail - Huntsville Hoyas Cross Country Running Coach is pushing for these changes from OFSAA (Ontario Federation of Secondary Athletics Associations) the governing body for all High School sports in Ontario, including cross country. He has sent letters to both OFSAA president Ian Press and Special Projects Coordinator, Peter Morris with no luck and encourages others to do the same. This past October he held a High School Cross Country Meet with equal distances for both the Girls & Boys. Read more on Canadian Running Magazine: Ontario High School Cross Country Meet Evens Race Distances for Girls and Boys
Changes have already started in Canada but not enough to sway OFSAA or any governing sport body yet. The Ottawa Region Schools voted to go against OFSAA rules and have both Boys and Girls running the same distances for all categories. They are the only High School Region in Ontario to do so at this point. In order to keep things rolling in the right direction we need to increase support and keep the pressure on OFSAA even after the cross country season.
Sign the petition for OFSAA to make XC distances equal for Girls and Boys here: