Some people were raised to fear God; I was raised to fear women,
and although it was not an intentional parenting strategy it
was the inevitable result of being raised with three athletically
and aggressively disposed sisters, by a mother who, following
a brief tenure as a kindergarten teacher returned to school,
and earned her MBA.
I dated late.
The influence of being raised by and among powerful women played
out in a myriad of ways. I learned early on that although I
was the third born, I was destined to place fourth in all the
things that mattered as a kid, as well as many of the things
that didn’t. Whether it was alpine skiing, tennis, hockey,
casually shooting hoops in the driveway after school or playing
the Game of Life on Saturday nights, though I could occasionally
steal a win, this was the exception and not the rule.
In spite of this, it was a good way to grow up and I both loved
and revered my sisters’ capacity to contend. It wasn’t
just that they won almost everything; it was how they competed.
This intensity profoundly impacted my life growing up. My sisters
had a way of making my problems go away whether it was an issue
with a bully in elementary school, a girlfriend who broke my
heart or the travails of Grade 11 math.
Suffice it to say I spent the formative part of my life regularly
being chick’d well before the term came to define the
finish line phenomena of a man getting passed by a woman. If
anything, the concept, beyond its inherent sexism, seems on
the benign side of what the women I grew up around were capable
of. Had my sisters been interested in distance running I have
no doubt that their first inclination wouldn’t have been
merely passing the person in front of them but running them
over in the process. I like to think that I too have some of
As an adult I have gauged the success of a race by my time
and place but also by my position in relation to the women with
the bibs adorned with low numbers and their nation’s flags.
I have run 30K with Canadian marathoner Jutta Merilainen, only
to relent and crumple when she insisted that the reward for
finishing with time to spare was an additional 8K. I have felt
intimidated after looking at what Katie Snowden does in a week
of concurrently training for the triathlon and marathon. And
my lasting claim to fame won’t be any fleeting personal
best or a small-town win but my arm appearing in the corner
of a Katherine Ndereba photo as she passed me in the final meters
of the Montreal Half-Marathon.
Running’s a big tent and there are as many reasons to
race as there are people in the sport. However, make no mistake,
worrying about being passed while charging for the finish line
matters. It’s a race and anyone lucky enough to have earned
the dubious distinction of leading for any length of time will
attest to the fact that being pursued changes things dramatically.
However, concern in some dark corners of the male psyche regarding
being passed by a female, beyond being shallow and disrespectful
to women who have earned their place the hard way is irrelevant
I don’t want to be passed by anyone.
But when it does happen I want to know why. The question of
whether they are a man or a woman or some guy dressed as a giant
banana isn’t important to me. What is important is how
they did it. I want to know what they did for training, the
mileage they did in the weeks prior to the race, the shoes they
wore, the name of their coach, how long they regularly slept
at night and what they ate for breakfast.
Over the years I have been motivated by time and in some events,
by my standing but ultimately I am driven by the primal compulsion
to pass the man, woman or child in front of me.
It’s how I was raised.