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. Bruce

    One of the things I love about ultra endurance is how older people regularly beat younger ones and how women can compete on such equal terms.

    I'd go a step further and admit to finding it a bit of turn-on when women show me a clean pair of heels in a race!

    Anyone else?!?!

  2. HP

    Fantastic read Ellie! When I think of the elites in this sport I never separate out men and women: it's just Ellie, Kilian, Anton, Frosty, etc.

    That's one thing that I have come to love about ultra running: at the finish line no one really cares about your gender; just how 'insane' you are to have run that distance that fast.

  3. Alex from New Haven

    Ellie,

    I HATE the phrase. It's a phrase for little boys. In my experience, it is most commonly used in Triathlon and Road Running, and is imported to ultra by people who used to be "competitive" in those cultures. In my experience it is used THE LEAST by the people I know in trail ultrarunning. At my ability level (~24 hr WS100) there is almost no difference between men and women and in even longer races I suspect that my female partners would start to pull ahead.

    I know Ann Trason felt some frustration about ambiguous expectations: She was SO good that when she came in 2nd overall at WS (and Leadville I think) that people didn't celebrate her winning the women's race as much as discuss how close she had come to winning overall. I guess that's the price of being THAT talented and THAT tough ;)

    Good luck Saturday!

    1. Tim

      Yes, why would anyone want to discuss Anne coming so close to winning the overall race. Those people have such nerve to talk about her as an EQUAL to men.

  4. art

    I think the attitude of being "chicked" only really exists in the front portion of the pack, serious racers with serious attitude.

    Being in the back third, I take it for granted I will be "chicked" numerous times in each race I run so pay it no mind.

    Now being "olded" that's another issue all together …

  5. Sara

    I dislike the phrase too, though a lot of people I respect a ton (like you) are okay with it, so I try to chill about it.

    I just think it can (sometimes, not always) diminish the achievements of women like you, Kami, Nikki, Anna, etc. who I very much admire. It puts you in in a 'chick' category instead of simply an amazing performance category, period. I realize it isn't always intended this way.

    At the other end, what about the male runners who ALWAYS get chicked? What does it imply about them? People will probably say, 'nothing', but that doesn't make logical sense.

    So, to me it's disrespectful to the upper level of female runners, and *all but* the upper level of male runners. I'm not in either category, but it just rubs me the wrong way.

  6. mtnrunner2

    Good one. As a guy the term makes me uncomfortable, and at my level thinking about it is totally unrealistic anyway. Among top male runners beating all women in a race is actually a possibility.

    >"chicked", "olded"

    In CO, I'm more concerned about being "elementary schooled".

  7. Trail Clown

    Until a woman actually wins outright at a championship 100 mile race, I think there will continue to be a "I didn't get chicked" vibe among the top-tier male runners. Among all the other runners, it's basically just a "That's What She Said" (from the TV show "The Office") fun type of a joke. Personally I have won age group awards (M30-39) in races at which women, older runners and teenage runners have all blasted by me, despite me running fast enough to place in my age division. For runners who run lots of races, it's just expected. I will say that at shorter distances, not as many women or old runners blast by me. Something about ultras evens the field, big time. And that is a beautiful thing, that's why the sport is so great. You're competing not just against cohort groups, but every type of group in the population. Finally, when I am gutting out a race near the finish line, I don't even pay attention to what type of runner may be trying to pass me…I am usually too incoherent to worry about being chicked or olded or youthed.

  8. Gary Gellin

    Just don't replace "chicked" with the pejorative "ladied". Ellie – 16 men? at what mile? If that's at the first aid station, you're bringing all but 8 of them back at No Hands Bridge. I'll be pacing one of the favorites in the mens' field and with my luck could get a repeat chicking by Nikki Kimball.

  9. Mike Hinterberg

    In ultras, being around the top women, if I'm lucky, is a privilege, and a good vibe place to run. Often (but not always, this is just an observation), the leading females are running a better, tactical race, and are often more friendly and inspirational when sharing miles, than nearby males running in an arbitrary place. Sometimes I'll see the leading female behind me and use it as a sign for me to /slow down/ because I shouldn't be running faster than her!

    As for the term and the concept, I'm not a fan. Like others have said, it seems worse in shorter, road races and triathlons. I've also observed it more watching my wife finish races — having a fun time in the middle of the pack — where guys will noticeably sprint past her and other women but not as much past other men. It's noticeable, and it's weird to see a one-sided race like that. There's still too much of a mentality, among a long unfortunate history, of some men with egos that can't take being beat by a woman in certain endeavors.

    That said, while I don't like the term, it is enjoyable to see it happen!

  10. Tri_Danimal

    As a slower male triathlete and soon to be completing my first 50K Ultra and Ironman I totally do not mine being "Chicked." I used to race road bicycles in college and had the ego to match. But one day I was running with a friend and a SUPER beautiful young lady stormed by us on a local trail, I made a comment about her backside. My running partner just looked at me and said, “Being chicked is not all bad, right?” I just smiled and simply said, “Nope, the scenery just got that much better!!”

    Shoot the reason I took so much liking to trail running because the “vibe” is so much mellower. When I did my first marathon it was the Leona Valley Trail Marathon, is Southern California (the same people who put on the Leona Divide 50M/50k). Everyone at the event said I was bonkers for attempting my FIRST marathon on this course but nonetheless I toed into the starting line. They took my bib number and at every aid station they checked in on me asking if I needed anything else or if they could do anything else to make my day more enjoyable. This is the experience is what every new person to trail running, short long or ultra, should be able to experience. Since that day I have been hooked on trail running. Oh yeah I was not the last male to cross the finish line but EVERY woman finished before me and everyone was at the finish line waiting to high-five the stragglers.

    I think we are going to always have this issue of it being a put down to some people but the more we use it as males the less harsh the term becomes, if it bugs you.

  11. ken michal

    At my end of the pack, I'm only concerned with being "vibramed" (but why is it that I only ever see guys racing in them?)!! Can't wait to see a lot of runners get "Ellie'd" this weekend!!!!

    All Day!

    ~Ken

  12. Jess Dagg

    I guess it could be taken both ways depending on who is saying it and in what context. I hadn't really thought about this phrase being derogatory until now though, but there are men out there who take it pretty personally if a woman beats them. I previously considered it to be a fun phrase meaning a woman is such a kick ass runner that men want to come in front of her because it would mean they had a really great run! But writing that down it sounds silly because you don't have to "beat" the first woman in order to decide where you stand. Yes, probably best not to analyze too much :-)

  13. Anne L

    "To Be Chicked" is a simply a funny way of describing the various reactions guys have when a girl beats them during a race – after a race you might go and congratulate your fellow runner and you will be met by various reactions – a “you go girl” type attitude, a congratulatory handshake which is accompanied by a comment like geeze you ate your wheaties before this race eh?!, an ignorance is bliss attitude (translation – I will ignore you and congratulate another male runner because I should have beat you), or a grudgingly-type handshake with furtive movement away from the gal (translation being – I am too polite to ignore you but I want to).

    "To Be Chicked" is just one of the many terms that exist out there when a runner targets some random girl/dude out there on the course/trail – because they are breathing too hard, their footsteps sound like a elephant, their iPod is simply too loud, because of the simple fact that they are wearing an iPod, he or she is wearing a lululemon outfit, has a window-washer running style, wearing a red/blue/orange/white/etc shirt, looks too much like a runner/doesn’t look like a runner at all, too young/too old, etc… I call these “running targets” – a marathon or an ultra marathon is a long way and our mind finds ways to keep the competitive mojo moving and things that you normally wouldn’t remark-on become our competitive focus during a race. During the race it is all seriousness, I.must.beat.that.guy.with.the.orange.shirt – but after the race I am always amused by how the mind works, really why was it so important to beat that one dude?!! I guess pinpointing a person rather than focusing on the seconds on the race-clock ticking away is easier for the mind and the body to handle.

    We are runners, we are competitors and it is all in good fun ;)

  14. Rorie

    Ellie, the late Cabillo Blanco told a great story of Ann Trason 'la Bruja' at Leadville 100 – she's been chickin' men for years! Run like The Witch this weekend Ellie! ;)

  15. Jamie Falk

    I usually call it "being beaten."

    There's not much more to it than that. The person in front either trained better than I did, had more willpower than me, or had more raw talent than I do.

    1. Sniffer

      I have the "greyhound effect" when I race. If something is in front I try and catch it. Just like that little white bunny. Gotta catch the bunny!

  16. Kent Keeler

    This phrase grates on me, but I can't point any specific reason. I just don't like it and cringe when I hear it. I compare my times to that of known female finishing times as a yardstick no differently than I compare to known men's times. This is simply a measuring stick. I don't feel any worse or better about my performance based on losing to, or finishing ahead of a female racer.

    1. Ellie

      And I would love to chick you Mr Sharman, except it would likley mean you were not having the best of days – which i would never wish on a running buddy :)

      1. Ian Sharman

        The phrase 'frosted' has already come about and being 'ellied' holds no shame either :) Best of luck to you to take the crown for UK/Canada (in that order ;))

    1. Scott S

      Me too! As a man running at the back of the pack, there's only a few people (men, women, and children) behind me, so I only seem to notice people 20 years (or so) older than me passing me by. Mostly I am just impressed that I still can't catch people my parents age!

  17. Tony Mollica

    I am not anywhere near the front of the pack. Where I am we tend to be supportive of each other, rather than hoping to beat one another. I have been passed numerous times by both men and women who have encouraged me to come with them, and I do the same.

    I am an Elementary Health and PE teacher, and I strongly dislike the term because I believe that it goes against what I teach the kids. we are all athletes when we engage in physical activity. It doesn't matter if you are male or female. It doesn't matter if you are young, old or somewhere in the middle. It doesn't matter what your skill level is. What matters is working hard and trying to get better! There is no shame in getting beat by another athlete, as long as you are doing the best you can with what you had to work with on that particular day!

  18. dogrunner

    The bell-curve of athletic performance is pretty wide for both males and females, with a lot of overlap, so it is pretty common for a lot of women to be faster than some men, for some women to be faster than some men, and for a few women (Ellie, Anna, Chrissie W. in triathlon, etc!) to be faster than MOST men. Same is true for men > men, women > women, and men > women. We just don't seem to need a special label for the latter 3 circumstances (we just say faster, slower). I guess that the first comparison gets a special label says something about how people view that outcome, and it looks like the opinions about that are pretty broad ranging ;)

  19. Jeremy C

    Ellie – I am glad you wrote this article, as I have been planning to pace off you at Squamish… now I will feel less guilty about it :D

    In seriousness though, your friend hit the nail on the head. “You do realize that I only want to beat you because you are a good runner.” Another point, is that I am always impressed with how well the top female elites pace themselves. My first ultra ever was KKNSTR last year, and I had studied the splits (including yours) of the top 20 finishers in the past 5 years. Your pacing on your CR was spot on. Same goes for many of your other finishes. Heck look at the Vancouver 2012 results… in the top 20 only 3 ran negative splits… one was you with a full 2 minutes!

    I think us dopey men with our go out hard and fall apart pacing strategy have a lot to learn from the likes of the best women.

    1. Ellie

      Would tend to agree jeremy, though if I am being nice I would say that in ultras these days the womens fields are still not quite as deep as the mens (hmm, maybe not for WS in 5 days tho!) so women can afford to run more conservatively in early stages where the men have to run hard from the start otherwise they may never get into contention. We can also blend into the race field more easily so less ego/ pressure to go out hard. See you in Squamish! (oh, and KK splits are more due to me having zero ability to be anything other than a snail up Black Mntn!)

      1. Jeremy C

        Interesting point about the elite women perhaps having a bit more luxury to pace conservatively from the start due to lack of depth, I had not considered that. If we know one thing for CERTAIN about Squamish, its that Jason will go out HARD, lol.

        I remember distinctly last year running up the hill towards Grouse from Cleveland dam, passing the lead woman and remarking to her that I probably had no business trying to pass her (despite thinking I felt good at the time). She put 25 minutes into me over the next 25 kms :) Hopefully I have learned my lesson.

        Good luck this weekend, you're an inspiration to us mere mortals, estrogen and all :)

  20. Terry Miller

    Ditto what Art and a couple others have said. I like the term myself, even though I assume I'll be chicked by anywhere from dozens to hundreds of women, and likely some girls and grandmas too, at any race I do. Only the guys in the pointy end of the field really care. I love it when a girl passes me, I think it's beautiful when a woman has enough drive and so little regard for stupid societal norms as to be a strong, fit runner. Great to get pulled along by the pony tail bobbing down the trail ahead of me.
    I got chicked by 70-something Libby James at my first 10k (Bolder Boulder) so I went home and friended her on Facebook. Keep it up ladies!

  21. Jeff Browning

    As a runner who is usually around the top women in a 50k and 50 miler, I would say that all the guys I know use it strictly as a fun term that really is a sign of respect. Dudes like to talk trash. The more competitive, the more trash…it's all in good elbow-jabbing fun.

    Some of us even going so far to give additional respect to women who are crazy fast, like Ellie, Kami and Krissy (to name only 3, there are lots) by not saying "chicked" but using their name….being "Kami'd" or "Krissy'd"…it's all in good fun and not meant as derogatory at all, but exactly the opposite. We all, whether up front or in the back of the pack, look for ways in a long race to motivate ourselves to finish as strong as we can on any given day and if I have a guy or a girl in front of me, I want to pick them off, gender does not matter.

    I had the pleasure (and pain) of being "Ellie'd" at Chuckanut this year when I caught her at the top of Chinscraper and when we hit the 3 mile gravel road downhill, I was running 5:30-5:45 pace and she proceeded to drop me like a bad habit. I kind of felt like Looney Tunes' Wiley Coyote when the Road Runner says "mee-meep" and proceeds to leave a trail of dust over the horizon. Truly strong work.

    Good luck at WS, Ellie. I hope you "dude" that geezer Sharman too. :)

  22. Sniffer

    Didn't Jurek used to wear a skort? I thought I read that somewhere. Would love to see all the ego's come out getting beaten by that. Good luck this weekend!

  23. David

    Ha ha! I don't race a lot and am a pretty mediocre runner, but at a recent 10k trail race I did, I couldn't swallow letting Vibram runners get/stay ahead of me.

  24. Bill Ahlers

    Another coined term is roadkill. All I know is I have a competitive nature and ego. Combined I really dislike being beat by anyone, chick or dude. Realistically I will always lose to someone chicks and dudes so it seems my mind uses the micro vision of who is in sight. Or my age bracket. I do especially feel accomplished when I pass a younger dude. However, I certainly don't feel duded or chicked when passed just slower. I think the phrase "being chicked" is a bigger deal for egotistical dudes and over sensitive chicks than the majority.

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