To Be Chicked

‘To be chicked,’ I’ve looked it up. It’s not in the Oxford English Dictionary. It is, however, pretty prevalent on Google, though that may say more about the relevancy of Google compared to the OED in 2012 than anything else. It also seems to indicate that numerous male runners (and, I discovered, cyclists) have had women finish ahead of them in races and felt the need to coin a phrase for this. Or, shock and horror, female runners have happily used the term themselves when they are fairly content to have finished ahead of certain men in a race.

It’s evident that ‘being chicked’ is a phrase only used in endurance races like ultrarunning. I mean, have you been to your local 10k recently and heard of anyone being chicked? I would guess not, in part, because even in a mixed field of female and male runners in a 10k race, the event is very much considered two separate races – one for men and one for women. As such, neither men nor women are comparing themselves so closely to members of the opposite sex. When it comes to sports like ultrarunning, though, it would seem that the men’s and women’s races, although each having their own winners, are much more interlinked and so having a phrase such as ‘being chicked’ is more relevant.

There has already been quite a lot of debate over whether this is a derogatory term or not. Of course, 95% of the comments on this subject have come from men, but don’t let that make you think that women are not reading these comments, too. Maybe us ladies are just not commenting, because it is possible that we are less offended by the term than men. Men are the ones ‘to be chicked’ and, thus, find the word itself contentious as it implies they have done less well in a race than they had hoped, whereas it is women who ‘do the chicking’ and, thus, have a positive association with the term as they have presumably finished ahead of men they did not expect to.

Personally, I think it is one of those phrases that we shouldn’t over analyze. I’ve had many a guy, when I’ve been out on a race course, say that they know they are going at the right pace as they are usually at same pace as the top finishing females. The guys are just using us ladies as a gauge like any runner would when they are in a race and can see someone around them whose pace they know. I don’t think that I have ever had a male ultrarunner be disappointed with their result because they’ve been chicked, but I know, for sure, that in shorter road races some guys have been pretty upset when a well-trained runner, who just happens to be female, has beaten them. It’s one of the things I love about ultrarunning – who really cares whether you’re a guy or a woman – we’re all just runners. It’s also a phrase that has been around long enough that not everyone who uses it realizes the possible offence it may cause, it’s now just part our ultrarunning dictionary along with a whole host of other terms (drop bags, bonking, etc.) that the average person on the street would have no idea what you were talking about.

Case in point: I was out running with a male friend and when we bumped into other runners who asked about an upcoming race. My friend said that his goal was to beat me, so, of course, I took immediate offence that he had presumably said that just because he didn’t want to seen to be chicked, and storming up the trail I went! A few minutes later I was followed by a, “You do realize that I only want to beat you because you are a good runner.” Nothing more, nothing less. He didn’t care about being chicked or not, he cared about having a good race and his positioning relative to mine would be an indicator of that. Kind of like aiming to come top 10 in a race because you know the other competitors and figure that is a realistic goal to set yourself. And, after all, are we all not just ultrarunners who set up friendly rivalries and it’s about beating the competition, staying ahead of our training partner, and sometimes using the phrase ‘to be chicked’ is just to refer to where we are relative to a certain point in the race pack.

But, all said and done, guys – these days, if you want to be at that certain point in the race field of a competitive ultra where you are not going to have someone pass you who may be wearing a skort, I would suggest shooting for top 10 to be safe. Lizzy Hawker chicked all but 12 men at UTMB 2011, Anna Frost recently ran faster than all but 12 men at Transvulcania, and, at Western States 2011, I ‘let’ 16 men go ahead of me.

Comments please, chicks and guys…

There are 101 comments

  1. Jon s.

    Can't wait to see how western unfolds… Ellie, you are the real deal, no matter what you are packing (or not packing) in your trousers… Movement is the key… The rest is just semantics… Thanks for taking the time to offer up your thoughts, Ellie, and kick some ass in California..

    P.S. I got chicked by like 18 seconds yesterday @ the Vancouver USA marathon… The lady finished strong, and I was just hanging on… I said ”go girl” as she was passing me during the last half mile… Do what you can and live with the results… The numbers don't lie…

  2. Tarzan

    "Chicked" "Geezered" "Stomped"… an Ultra, I could be passed by Monica Lewinsky carrying Lady GaGa on her back and i wouldn't give a hoot in hell…i just do the best I possibly can…if I can be within a certain amount of time of certain runners, male or female, very cool….I know a lot of male and female runners that are unbelievable athletes, chasing them or being chased, it's awesome just to be in the same race as them. All are an insperation. I once met Colleen DeRuck at the BIX 7 race 16 yrs ago…I was so inspired by her intensity and her dedication….I was within 5 seconds of breaking 40 minutes that day, but she stomped me by a few MINUTES… What an amazing athlete! GO ELLIE! YOU ROCK!

  3. Drew

    Having once lived in a ski town with 6 dudes to every chick I came to view any activity with fast, fit females as highly positive, weather they finished before or after me. Ellie, you keep stompin' the little boys and I'll keep cheering.

  4. kaprian

    So long as a given group has minorities and majorities, the inherent urge to compare and possibly be on equal ground is most likely not going to change. Ultimately it's a survival of the fittest scenario – those who can, will, those who can't, are happy to pass anyone. :)

  5. Scott S

    Rob, Many years ago at about the ten-mile point during my very first half marathon, the friends that I was running with were fine with letting Grandma pass us, but not me, I gave chase and managed to finish a couple of minutes ahead of her. Did it really matter? No, of course not. However, that (relatively old) lady gave me quite a new perspective on life that if I train well and take care of myself that I just might live a long and healthy life AND whoop up on some young folks in the distant future.

  6. Mat

    The first time the term was used in a conversation I was part of, was in the last mile of a tough 50k. I was burned out, and a woman caught me from behind, and encouraging me to finish strong, offered a "come on, you're almost there! Don't get chicked!"

    I didn't take offense, and watched in admiration as that "chick" powered on. I doubt the phrase bothered her that much either — she seemed to know that she was a good runner and that she was female, and saw no incompatibility between the two.

    The only person who I was glad to finish ahead of was the guy who was almost verbally abusive to the aid station volunteers because they didn't have gels, and the other guy who berated the RD for not having cameras at the finish to capture the sprint he pulled off at the end.

  7. Runnerjen

    I more mind when the men get pissy about getting "chicked". I am offended that some men feel they should be faster than me, just because they are men. So perhaps it's the un-sportsmanship attitude I have a problem with…like the guy who won't shake my hand, or look at me at the end of a race, because his ego has been bruised. Whatever.

    When I was running AR50 this April, I passed a guy who was having a bad moment. I asked him if he was ok, and his response was…"Oh man, I'm getting chicked???" Hah! You mean, "oh woman"? And he was actually "chicked" about 45 min prior by Ellie Greenwood! In any event, I decided not to wait around to see if he needed anything. I had some chicking to do.

  8. Chris

    I think it's a stupid phrase, made even more ridiculous when it isn't uncommon. If you are so fast that almost never get beat by a woman, then I suppose it can be a show of respect to say you got "chicked". If you say you got "chicked" when passed by a woman and there are already 20 or more ahead of you…'s just ignorant.

  9. Stormo

    I've got no problem with the term or with it happening to me, ultra or otherwise. In a recent 10 miler on Chuckanut Mt. I was "chicked" by Jodee Adams-Moore, as were all but two other runners. She, along with Ellie and several other fast women chicked me at Chuckanut 50k. I'm just happy I get to run in the same races as them.

  10. Johnnyroyale

    Chicked? Pah. Bring it on. Nothing is worse than being overtaken by a man dressed as a cherry tart – as what happened to me in my very first marathon. A good hard look at myself was taken on that day.

  11. fred p

    Could there be a more unfortunate name than "skort?" It sounds like 'spork,' a combination between a spoon and fork. Perhaps should have a contest to come up with a better name than skort.

  12. Dusty

    Well, since I've been accused of coining that phrase amongst the Ultra community. I will put in my two cents…

    I think it first started back when Ann Trason was beating the Tarahumara's. They did take it extremely personally back then and being the devils advocate I am, I might of even yelled it at them once or twice, maybe. The sport of Ultra running definitely has a equal playing field. It depends more on inner strength, desire, and mental toughness. And it is not uncommon where women aren't competing for the women's race, but for the overall race. (shit you almost beat Scott Jurek"s record) At least for my view it's more out of respect for women raising the bar for everybody. And maybe a little heckling for people who get offended by it… All in good trash talking fun!

    I'm with Mike.

  13. Waldo

    This term has also been used for quite a while in the SoCal mountain biking community where there is a significant contingent of fast and skilled female riders. It doesn't necessarily require beating a male in a race though; simply passing a guy on a fast section or a tough climb counts as "chicking." I know because my girlfriend and her friends all chick me on a pretty regular basis, and I'm proud of them for it!

  14. Keith

    Back in 1999 or so I was into Streetluge racing, like used to be on the X-Games -(yeah, I know)- and was racing in North Carolina with my girlfriend. After the first race, several of the male racers got "spanked by a chick" when she passed and finished ahead of them. Never heard that one before or since!

  15. Anonymus

    Over a decade ago I was a pro athlete in an endurance sport, and was blessed enough to be faster than every "chick" in the world. As I stopped my professional career and went to school it didn't take long until the best women in the world was faster than me. During that time my wife (then girlfriend) used to joke with me when I got "chicked" but always in a kind heart spirit. Nowdays it feels just silly not being proud about being "chicked" as if the right girls show up they will kick my a** every day of the week. A man that can't take being beaten by a girl should just run faster, or get used to it. To this day I personally prefer to have a girl pass me instead of a guy, because the girl is not fighting about the same awards or place on the podium, but the guy is.

  16. Dane

    Not to self-promote but my book which came out in May has a nice section on being chicked and how it is usually a good thing. But it is not just in ultramarathons where the word is used. That is a narrow view of the world which we all do with the sport we like the most.

  17. Susan - Nurse on the

    I personally love the phrase…and I can see that there are definitely mixed emotions among the men out there. While I'm definitely not (ever?) qualifying for the Olympic Trials, I like to think I can hold my own in a race. I usually run in the top 5% of women (doesn't feel like it, ha!), so I tend to be at the point where spectators (especially women!) are excited to see females coming through, so they yell my name (if I have my name on my shirt, I'm certainly not famous). Men around me sometimes joke, "Ha, you must be Susan!" since there aren't too many other women around. At other times, in smaller races when some aid station volunteers count off what place you're in and yell, "You're the 12th female!" some men turn around, look, and take off. If I'm on the 12th female, we're certainly not running slow!

    It's a strange difference. Running is a sport that attracts all ability levels, from (almost) two hour marathoners to seven hour marathoners, and we (males and females) cover the entire spectrum. I love that I can have male training partners or females up ahead to chase. And yes, chicking is definitely fun.

  18. Oscar

    Yeah, I once lost a 5K by one second to a girl named "Andrea," and was interviewed over the P.A. system after finishing. I was very upset about "Getting Chicked," especially by only one second, but when asked about it I just smiled and said how when you're out there on the course, you want to enjoy the beautiful scenery and running behind Andrea provided that and blah blah. I had to bite my cheek for that one, but what the heck else could I say? I didn't want to reveal my true feelings, it would have taken away from the overall mood of the crowd.

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