I’m very excited to write this post because – thanks to the Title IX post – I’ve figured out how to incorporate an idea from a book that changed my life into this class. Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall is a documentary centered around, well, the reclusive Tarahumara natives, ultra-marathoners, and a particular footrace that brought them both together. It blends history, science and entertainment into a fantastic narrative that, frankly, I believe everyone should experience, as a member of the human race.
Here is a video – a TED Talk, if you’re familiar – of McDougall explaining many of the concepts from his book (it’s a 16 minute video but the first 2:30 should suffice for my following argument). It outlines various points pertaining to running, one of which is the relation between the skills and abilities of women and men.
Men are faster than women, in general. Men are stronger than women, in general. This is not debatable; it’s a scientific and genetic truth. Sure, professional female athletes can destroy high school junior varsity athletes at the same sport, but this is an unfair comparison to make and thus irrelevant. According to McDougall, the women’s world record for fastest marathon time is a full ten minutes slower than that of men. (Heck, women weren’t even allowed to compete in marathons until the 1970’s because respected medical professionals truly believed that running 26.2 miles without stopping would cause the uterus to become detached and literally fall out of the vagina.)
But something interesting happens as the races get longer and longer in length: women catch up. In the (small) world of ultra-marathon runners (50, 100, 150 mile races), women are just as competitive as men. This amazing fact, coupled with the idea of childbirth, makes up for all the physical advantages that men have over women. It provides support for a theory as to how humans evolved to be the way we are today: upright, relatively hairless, social, etc.
More importantly for this blog, it proves that women ARE physically equal to men, at least in some ways. Many guys would scoff at the idea of a woman beating them in any honest competition, but when it comes to long-distance running, it’s more than a possibility. It’s a scientific and genetic reality.