Head Start

Supporting Female Athletes

September 19, 2023 Race Directors HQ Episode 64
Head Start
Supporting Female Athletes
Show Notes

Racing has come a long way since the days when women were being told that running the marathon would cause your uterus to fall out. And with women now making up 54% of all race registrations in the US, according to RunSignup’s 2022 RaceTrends report, you’d think there’d be very little holding women back from racing in this third decade of the 21st century.

That, however, is not the reality for most women out there, according to today’s guest, SheRACES founder and GB team ultrarunner, Sophie Power. Whether it’s images of uniformly male start lines, lack of reasonable pregnancy deferral policies or unnecessarily aggressive race cut-off times, races still - knowingly or unknowingly - put up more visible and invisible barriers for female athletes than they should - or realize. And that means fewer women at start lines, fewer women signing up for races and fewer women thinking they belong in the world of endurance sports racing. 

So what are those barriers holding women back and what can race directors do to remove them?

Well, the good news is we have a fairly good grasp of the former and some very easy fixes for the latter that in many cases require only a little thoughtfulness and little to no extra cost. Things like providing basic sanitary products for female athletes at toilet facilities and aid stations or trying harder to give female competitions the attention they deserve and female race finishers the properly fitting finisher shirt they have paid for. Simple things, in other words, that when implemented and communicated right can make female athletes feel more comfortable and more welcome in races.

In this episode:

  • Why inclusivity is good for business
  • The importance of using inclusive race imagery
  • How the wrong marketing copy/language can alienate participants
  • The effect of tight mid-course time cutoffs on slower runner participation
  • Using cut-off pace instead of cut-off time in race communications 
  • Thinking harder about toilet facilities
  • Should race directors make sanitary products available on race day?
  • Offering female-fit finisher shirts
  • Why a lack of a pregnancy deferral policy is stopping women from signing up for your race
  • Could races be offering childcare support for athletes on race day?
  • Calling out verbal and sexual harassment in racing
  • Setting out race etiquette and a clear anti-harassment policy

Thanks to RunSignup for supporting quality content for race directors by sponsoring this episode. More than 28,000 in-person, virtual, and hybrid events use RunSignup's free and integrated solution to save time, grow their events, and raise more. If you'd like to learn more about RunSignup's all-in-one technology solution for endurance and fundraising events visit runsignup.com.

You can find more resources on anything and everything related to race directing on our website RaceDirectorsHQ.com.

You can also share your questions about some of the things discussed in today’s episode or anything else in our Facebook group, Race Directors Hub.