Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Body of Work II

In my first post I discussed the word ‘body’ as it relates to a runner’s body of work, or their running accomplishments. Today I am going to focus on the word ‘body’ as it relates to our physical body. And if Mariah Carrie’s song “Touch My Body” isn’t running through your head right now, it should be. A few weeks ago I received a mailing for the 5/3rd River Bank Run. This is a tremendous group of races located in Grand Rapids, with the marquee race being the 25K (or 15.5M of you so please).

While looking through the mailing I noted the 5/3rd River Bank Run has a “Clydesdale” divisions for both men and women. If you are not familiar with what the term “Clydesdale” means for runners, I’ll let the flyer speak for itself. For men, the “Clydesdale” divisions are 185-199 pounds, and 200+ pounds. For women, the “Clydesdale” divisions are 145-154 pounds, and 155+ pounds.

I have only come across “Clydesdale” divisions a few times before, including the Flying Pig Marathon. And I find it strange that a race would be willing to differentiate on the basis of weight.

See, one reason I love running is that anyone can do it. A quick jaunt through several blogs and you will find fast runners, slow runners, obsessed runners, casual runners, and runners of varying weight. Yet, they all run. And running certainly promotes itself as the friendliest and most accessible sport—welcome to all people and all body types and any pace. I always see runner’s finish a race, turn around, and walk back to cheer on other runners. Every running store that has a running group promotes its “any pace, anybody” motto. So, it seems to me, that a “Clydesdale” division is somewhat dated.

Now, to be honest, I was rather caught off guard by the fact that I qualify for the lower “Clydesdale” division, and that only three pounds would place me in the upper division. Moreover, I would have to loose a dozen pounds to get out of it. And while I may not be Nitmos fast, I am a very quick runner. I’m also over six feet tall, so 197 pounds on me looks different than on someone who is five foot seven. Yet, body type is not taken into account, just weight.

Ultimately, I think it is sad that a sport which is overwhelming supportive of any fitness level and any body shape still holds onto some of its more dated traditions by classifying people based on weight. And, for those who will argue that ‘age’ classification are just as arbitrary, I would strongly disagree. Age divisions are meant to compare others around your age, “Clydesdale” divisions are solely reserved for what would be called “heavier” runners. There is no corresponding feather weight.

Happy running, no matter who you are or what pace you run.

1 comment:

Sun Runner said...

When I started running over 2 years ago I was a Clydesdale. Now, almost 70 lbs lighter, I'm still a Clydesdale. It's kind of ridiculous when I think about it. If I lost enough weight to not be in that category any more I would look rather sickly. I know that a lot of my weight is my muscle mass, muscles that allow me to run far and fast. I'd rather keep my muscles. :)