How can you not show up to a race when all the women athletes you know will be there? That question I had no easy answer to, so I had to turn up!
The Atleta Ako Women’s Aquathlon yesterday drew people from across the running and multisport community to the PhilSports Arena. And it wasn’t just us women; despite this being a women-only race, the gents were around, volunteering and supporting.
My Endure teammate Hanna Sanchez was doing the Petite category (300m swim-3.2km run), our K-Endure Chelo Neri was participating in her first aquathlon in the 11-12 kids category (200m swim-1.6km run), and I was signed up for the Standard distance (500m swim-6km run).
There were about 250 women registered for this race, which is quite a lot considering multisport (and to a lesser extent running) is still male-dominated. I can’t tell you how many races I’ve done where the women’s race seems to play second-fiddle to the men’s race, how because we’re usually the last wave to be let loose, there are so few spectators left out on the course when we women are finishing up. And now this was a day devoted solely to us! I could tell the women were less self-conscious about how they would look or perform, especially for the newbies.
I was bib #50, a happy coincidence because I had decided to dedicate this race toward the movement 50 Women to Kona, which is pushing for equal slots for male and female pros at the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. While prize money is equal for the men and women, currently there are 50 slots available for male pros, but only 35 slots for female pros. This means 15 slots less opportunity for the pro women to participate in what is a self-proclaimed “world championship”. Fifteen slots less exposure for women in a “world championship”. What kind of message does that send?
Contrast this to the International Triathlon Union’s policy, which provides an equal amount of male and female starting spots and prize purses at ITU races. The ITU also prioritizes equal television airtime and media attention for males and females across all World Triathlon Series events.
Why does this matter to me, an age-grouper who has no plans of ever going to compete in Kona as a pro? It matters because I believe that equality of opportunity at the top results in greater participation across the board. The more women participating at the top of our sport at Kona, in what is recognized as the pinnacle of athletic achievement for a triathlete, the more women and girls can look up and be inspired to pursue their dreams and ambitions — whether it’s simply to participate in their first race or to continue to level up to long-course or even to become a pro.
Here’s some further reading:
- Open Letter to WTC
- Inside the 50 Women to Kona movement
- Sara Gross, Ph.D. and Ironman champion: Blog series “Taking the Final Steps toward Gender Equality in Triathlon“
- Bob Babbitt, godfather of Ironman triathlon: “Do the Right Thing“
- Thorsten Radde, statistician: “Side Effects“
- Swim Bike Mom, member of the WTC Women For Tri Board: “50 Women to Kona…“
- Kelly Burns Gallagher, lawyer, triathlete, and coach: “Addressing Some Arguments against #50WomentoKona“
The Atleta Ako Aquathlon was a great venue to write “5Q” the symbol of 50 Women to Kona on my arm and raise a little awareness about the issue even in the local multisport community because we want to encourage more women to engage in sport!
So, back to my race report… While this was a fun event, that didn’t mean I wasn’t aiming to race at my very best against a deep field in my age group.
The participants were let out in waves of three each — a rolling start that helped keep the congestion in lanes to a minimum so there was no “washing machine” effect.
I’m annoyed that even with this peaceful start I didn’t swim well. Midway through the first 50 meters I could barely catch my breath, and I ended up swimming about 250 meters of the 500 with backstroke! Sometimes your body just rebels against you. With a choice between inhaling water doing freestyle, or getting through the swim any way I could, I swallowed my pride and did what I had to do to get out of the water without someone diving in to rescue me. (And this is why you should learn another stroke besides freestyle.)
Once on dry land though, I was a happy camper. I pulled on my Vamos socks (the “You Got Chicked!” graphic was perfect for this race), my Mizuno shoes, and grabbed my trusty Simple Hydration bottle and proceeded to the track oval next to the pool to run 15 laps of 400 meters to complete the 6k run.
It was easy to keep track of the loops thanks to the 15 rubber bands they gave us at registration, as well as the guys at the timing tent calling out how many loops we had done. I threw down one rubber band every time I passed them. As backup I was also keeping track of the distance on my Garmin.
I was happy to stay at a sub-5 minute per kilometer pace. Having a bottle with me also helped because you get into a momentum running around a track, and it was just easier to keep going rather than stop for a cup for water.
Crossing the finish line was sweet, and while I didn’t get on the podium at this race it was a great workout for the day and I’d outdone everyone else who was still at home, sleeping. Haha.
I got my finisher medal and shirt, and Peak Form Manila did a great job offering free stretching to all the finishers. I finished my Ineng’s boxed meal of barbecued chicken and rice while watching the Petite and Kids categories, and happily welcomed Hanna and Chelo across the finish line.
I’m proud to report Hanna got first and Chelo got third in their respective age groups! Go Sh-Endure!
This was a race that the Philippine multisport community needed. It’s great to have venues where women can feel empowered in sport and in life. I met many women and young girls doing their first aquathlon and this was the perfect race for them. Needless to say, I think they will all be back for more — and will invite all their friends to come along! I know I will.
‘Til next year! Don’t forget to visit www.atletaako.com