One of the profound reason of my passion for ultra-running is not because I can, but is the fact that it symbolise the right of doing things I love doing. Full stop.This is not the case for everyone, a luxury for some due to many factors. For instance among women in crisis zone in certain country in Middle East and South Asia.They may not be able to participate due to intangible barrier of tradition or culture, limited access or limited opportunity. Or simply not encouraged to or sports deem to be low in priority of life. When my legs were heavy and fatigue took over during my races, these women often in my head as source of motivation to keep going.
Dwelling over these gender issue as today is an International Woman’s Day, I belief in no ceiling or boundaries. The world is the oyster and sky has no limit – that with great determination and hard work everyone can achieve anything. That ‘everyone’ applied to both man and woman in all cases of right and freedom of every aspects – education, wealth, power, marriage and health. While woman equality and right may have improved significantly say over a decade, the statistics out there may not be sufficient to prove the case.
The concept of women individuality and independence may be taboo or nonexistent to some cultures. Also society view of woman as weak and incapable physically, mentally, and spiritually.
While there are commitments from UN Women to erase global gender by 2030, there have been rising of females who champion the philanthropic and NGO bodies to make a difference in the life of women (Global Entrepreneurship 2014 counts about 200 million women). Will the speed of effort by this amazing bodies sufficient to achieve the goals being set up in the wake of rising gender issues? How to accelerate changes? Is the fund being use efficiently to maximise the benefits for these women? Only statistic matter? How about the real intangible value creation and long-term benefit that can shift the perception towards women among women also also among men?
Women require collaboration hand in hand from men in this matter without doubt. It is a global issue that require united support and effort from men alike. Many campaigns are including man (such as HeForShe by UN Women) and substantial work by male philanthropist such as Glowork in Saudi Arabia (to improve women participation in job market), and Egypt’s HarassMap (using technology to combat gender violence). Beginning education at home is crucial – father to treat both son and daughter equally and fairly in term of right, father to play not just provider or breadwinner but an educator and role model in treating women with pride and dignity. Then integrate this from household to society – school, workplace and boardroom.
Back to running, just as I am shopping around at which city next to run a marathon and to keep dragging my travelling suitcase – this site not just list the toughest or popular marathon around the world but draw participation rate by women. And it seems that Missoula Marathon top the list at 50.6%. There are also women only marathon events such as Osaka’s Women Marathon, Nagoya Women’s Marathon, and Malaysia Women Marathon.
In ultra running world, I’ve seen in my own eyes how woman beaten man in a single race – hands down. I’ve encountered my own tribe of ultra runners extending role to society and contributing to improve social aspect through many angles – Dubai based Maria Christina Foundation by Maria Conceicao (education for children in Dhaka), Free To Run by Stephanie Case (empower women through running and adventure), and Samantha Gash (with her running project in Africa to keep girls in school).
In case you wonder how it all started, read here about Kathrine Switzer – the first woman to officially enter and run the Boston Marathon.
It is a journey on tacking women agenda that is not only about commitment but action and result. The onus is on woman to do the work. I call my own self to contribute further in whatever ways possible – be it conventional or innovative way. Leave you with gallery below on my little participation in 2015 Malaysia Women Marathon 3rd Edition as one of the guest speaker and dialogue on long distance running which took place on International Women’s Day. A brilliant event of multi distances to encourage women to ultimately run a marathon with confidence that also offers various running techniques and tips – simply a celebration for being women runner.
Happy International Women Day. What role do you play or invest in solving women issue? How running or sport in general empower women?
Live to thrive.