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Disqualifying Women’s Marathon Records

By Alyssa Rosenberg on October 5, 2011 at 6:38 pm

"Disqualifying Women’s Marathon Records"

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If someone has a good reason why it makes sense to retroactively void the world record Paula Radcliffe set in the marathon because she ran with male pacers, I would like to hear it, because it’s making large amounts of steam come out of my ears. It’s one thing to say that in the future, men and women will run separately because male pacers help make women run faster, but Radcliffe set her record in a way that was totally legal at the time she set it, and she shouldn’t have it taken away from her.

And even that doesn’t really make sense, and will cause logistical challenges for marathons that typically run men and women together. It’s not as if Radcliffe was running in circumstances that are wildly abnormal for the sport. The presence of men may make women run a little faster. I’ve never run 26.2 miles all at one go, but I imagine that weather, courses, and road conditions all make for variable performance. Are we going to limit world records to races run on days when the temperature varies between 55 and 72 degrees? The presence of men is not an artificial stimulant. Instead, maybe it’s evidence that competing together can help women reach their personal best.

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