Apples To Apples, Not Oranges

[Editor’s Note: This article was written by the Trail Sisters’ Pam Smith.]

On December 10, 2016, Gina Slaby broke the 100-mile world record with a blistering time of 13:45:49 at the Desert Solstice Track Invitational, breaking Ann Trason’s world record of 13:47:41 set way back in 1991. For her efforts, the race organization awarded her $600. Had she been a man breaking the world record at Desert Solstice she would have been awarded $2,000. You see, Desert Solstice’s prize-money schedule was set so that a man breaking the 100-mile world record earns $2,000 and a man breaking the 24-hour world record earns $5,000. But for a woman to achieve the same level of pay she would’ve had to break the 100-mile record by 17 minutes and the 24-hour world record by a whopping seven-plus miles! [Update, February 27: On Facebook, Gina announced that Aravaipa Running (the race administration for Desert Solstice) was awarding her the remaining $1,400 that represented her award discrepancy, and that she was ultimately going to be paid out identically as a man setting a 100-mile world record.] 

2016 Desert Solstice 100-Mile Prize Money

2016 Desert Solstice 24-Hour Prize Money

When I spoke to Gina about this she was very gracious about the whole thing, saying that she thought the discrepancy was “strange,” but that she “didn’t expect to win anything, so she was happy with the $600.”

Jamil Coury, RD of Desert Solstice and Head of Aravaipa Running had this to say when I asked him about the issue:

The original reason there was a difference in prize money for Desert Solstice was first due to Yiannis Kouros’s men’s 24-hour world record being so far above the second best performance. We had wanted to throw up a much larger amount of prize money if someone was able to break that performance. There was also a significant gap in the men’s 100-mile performance (until Zach Bitter started running track races).

Our intention was not to have a discrepancy between men’s and women’s prize money for records there, but I can see how that’s what ended up happening. All of the prize money given at our other events (Kendall Mountain Run, Flagstaff Sky Race, and Crown King Scramble) have always been equal for men and women. We even for a couple of years were offering twice as much women’s course record money for the Crown King Scramble 50K to any woman besting Ann Trason’s time there since it was so far and above any other woman’s performance. We’ve since equalized those amounts.

There is some merit to the idea that women have more potential for improving ultrarunning records then men. In a great 2013 blog post from Ian Sharman, he notes that in sprints the men’s and women’s world records differ by 10.31%, that mid-distance world records differ by 11.55%, long-distance (5k to the marathon) records differ by about 12%, yet in ultras, records for women are on average 14.66% slower than men’s. It is notable that the percentage difference increases as the distance increases, and if one were to focus on the current super-long ultra-distance records (using 100-mile, 24-hour, 48-hour, and Spartathlon records) the average is right at 17% difference, suggesting that there might not be an entirely linear comparison between men’s and women’s records at different distances. However, one conclusion is that women have more potential for improving current records.

But to me the idea of expecting someone (or a group) to jump to their expected potential without taking into account where they currently are is like a coach asking his previously sedentary new client to run 10 miles at eight minute-mile pace on his first day; for a teacher to assign a book report on Anna Karenina to a third grader; or a beginning piano class to tackle a Mozart piece, all because they believe they have the potential to do those things. Progress is made in small steps and for the most part records are improved incrementally, as well.

While women’s records may have more room for improvement, so, too, does a five year old than an eight year old. But any parent would tell you that it would be ridiculous to compare a five year old to an eight year old, as the development in that window is immense. Likewise, men’s running has had a lot longer to ‘mature’ than women’s running and so it doesn’t seem unreasonable that men’s records are ahead of women’s at this juncture. And while there may be more room for improvement, implying that a 25-year-old world record set by the greatest female ultrarunner of all time, Ann Trason, is ‘weak’ seems a bit foolish to me!

In discussions of sex equality, it is important to acknowledge that the phrase itself is a bit of a misnomer as what is generally meant is ‘equitable’ treatment of the sexes, rather than things being truly equal. Implying that men and women should be held to the same standards, especially in physical efforts, is to me a form of sexism in itself, because what it really means is that women are being expected to measure up to men’s standards. A good example of this was when the Indiana Trail 100 Mile initially offered $25,000 to anybody who broke Ian Sharman’s North American trail record of 12:44:33. Women were eligible for the prize, too… but only if they broke 12:44:33. (They subsequently changed their position after public outcry and offered the same money for a woman breaking Jenn Shelton’s (at-the-time) 100-mile trail record. No one succeeded in breaking either record and the race no longer has this incentive).

One example of equitable but unequal is the division of the prize purse at the TransRockies Run stage race. Part of their formula factors in the number of participants in each category as a surrogate for the ‘competitiveness’ in each field, with more money going to the groups with the biggest fields. While field size may not be a direct corollary to competitiveness (does a lot more slow runners make a race more competitive?), the TransRockies Run prize structure seems like a reasonable–and transparent–way to distribute different values amongst groups without a built-in bias against any one particular group.

Rarely cases do pop up where women are the benefactors of prize-money discrepancies. Last year at the Tamalpa Headlands 50k, which served as the USATF 50k Trail National Championships, $2,000 was offered for a new female course record, but only $1,000 for a new men’s course record. The prize money was donated and this was a stipulation of the donation. The donor noted a long history of inequality of sports, the desire to see a very competitive women’s field at a national-championship event, and the decade-old women’s course record (as opposed to two new course records in three years on the men’s side) as reasons for the unequal split. Race Directors Tim and Diana Fitzpatrick said they did consider how people may view the prize discrepancies, but that they felt that they could justify the decision and really wanted to promote women in ultrarunning. They note that the incentive was successful in that the race drew a very competitive women’s field and two of the ladies did go under the old course record. They also note that the men did still benefit as the prize doubled from the race’s standard $500 prize and the men’s field was also quite competitive. Tim points out that the money was donated and did not affect their operating budget or the race-entry fees. The Fitzpatricks said there were only a handful of complaints and generally the decision was well received, but they are returning to the standard (and equal) $500 prizes this year.

While I am not trying to suggest that women should get more prize money than men, I think the Tamalpa Headlands race is a great example of women raising the bar when there is good monetary incentive. If we want to see women’s records lowered we need to accept them for where they are currently and not make assumptions about where we think they should be. In 2012, Ellie Greenwood finished Western States 45 minutes under the existing course record. But did that make the efforts of Ann Trason and other past female champions less impressive because they were so far off the course-record potential? I think not! Gina broke the world record as it stood and I believe she deserved the same reward a man would have gotten for the same feat.

And while Gina might have been short changed, the story does have a bit of a happy ending. Jamil added to his comments, “After some more consideration we feel that having a difference in prize money for men’s and women’s performances at Desert Solstice isn’t our intention so we will be equalizing the amount of prize money for equal records for 2017.” I believe runners head to Desert Solstice because Aravaipa running puts on a top notch event for runners pursuing records, but it is nice to know that men and women setting those records will now be treated equally.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • What do you think about the concept of prize-money or award-structure equality among men and women?
  • How much does the award structure of a race affect its competitiveness? As in, do you think big prize money helps increase a race’s competitiveness? And how do you see this concept applying to the support of the growth of women’s trail and ultrarunning?
Trail Sisters

is a group of three women, each with unique opinions, ideas, and attitudes toward all things trail and ultrarunning. Pam Smith is a mom, physician, and lover of running who lives in Oregon. Liza Howard is a mom and 100-mile specialist from Texas. Gina Lucrezi is a Colorado-based short-distance speedster exploring the realms of ultrarunning.

There are 45 comments

  1. Pam

    Gina did get a bonus from her sponsor, but most races offer no monetary reward for these kind of performances. In Jamil’s words “As you know Desert Solstice is a labor of love for us and the prize money comes out of my pocket for the event as well as the drug testing for any world records set for validation. Our whole goal is to setup an event where athletes can come and have every advantage to go after their best performance.” And while I had an issue with the prize structure (now fixed!) I do need to commend Jamil and Aravaipa for their efforts at Desert Solstice – I don’t know of any other track races where there are performance based cash bonuses. Many sponsors have incentive based monetary awards but most that I know of (including mine) are for wins/podiums at major events, often trail races. perhaps this is why we have seen so little focus on road records from both US men and women.

  2. Ellie Greenwood

    Thanks for a super article, Pam.

    Races should offer equal prize money or CR money. End of story. If it’s $0 for men and $0 for women, no problem, but in 2017 it’s disappointing that equal pay is an issue. (And yes, I know that applies so many professions, not just running).

    1. SageCanaday

      Spot on Ellie! Women have been discriminated against in sport for decades and this isn’t just reflected in prize money….it also gets reflected in a lack of opportunity and therefore participation. There are a ton of other social issues at hand too obviously with discrimination, stigma, and chauvinism but that is a big can of worms.

      Some people may try to justify a higher prize purse for men because they say the men’s field “has more competitive depth” or that the record is “better” on the men’s side,” but data and margins aside that is missing the point. The point is more women need (deserve) incentive and opportunity and support in this sport (equal prize money is for sure a no-brainer and a good place to start..why this is still a discrepancy in 2017 is beyond me).

    2. Chris

      I am curious if she would have broken the overal record would she have received 5k or would it have been 600. I think its more than fair to have separate rewards values if they are based on gender and not time. To reward the 40th place finisher overall of an event the same as the first place seems completely unfair. To really be fair have the top time or place and leave gender out of it. By the way i love your articles and i bought my daughter your socks. You are a true inspiration. Thanks and keep running

  3. alicia

    Great article, Pam. It’s nice that Aravaipa has changed their prize structure for 2017, though it would be even nicer if they could get Gina the extra $1400 she would have earned this year had she been male…

  4. Mike

    Is the point of the article to call out Aravaipa for this one error? It doesn’t seem indicative of any greater issue in terms of unequal prize purses.

  5. Lucy

    Good article, however I object to the notion of women’s running not having had the same time to ‘mature’ as men’s and thus our expectations should be lower. Does Wamsley somehow inherit or is transferred speed and distance prowess from the likes of Jurek or Krupicka? Certainly men have benefited from increased participation and thus a larger pool of talent, but that doesn’t mean that we have to wait 20 years for women to reach the comparative standard of what men are doing today, the capability is very much present now. There were no gods that be stating that when Radcliffe stepped to the line she could only run 10 seconds faster rather than the full 2 minutes that she actually did. Indeed, to subsequently expect less is almost to belittle the potential of women, you’re writing off amazing performances as mere anomalies that would be foolhardy to chase and to aspire to bring down.
    Also, on your point of Ellie Greenwood taking down Ann Trason’s record not diminishing Ann’s accomplishment, I think it actually does. Of course, when looking back in the context of the era, Ann’s record will always be impressive, however in light of what todays athletes can do, it loses its standing. In the same way that a man running a 2:08 marathon (the record in 1984), is not longer considered impressive to the same degree given that athletes today are expected to run under 2:05.

    1. SageCanaday

      You might want to keep in mind Radcliffe’s history with blood test results (she was cleared of ‘charges’ though). No doubt I think clean women can naturally run a marathon faster than my own marathon PR (2:16:52), as plenty of women have now gone sub 14:20 for 5km (I think cleanly), but keep in mind the “Radcliffe” data point is still an extreme outlier…especially at the time when hardly any women had gone sub 2:20 and she pops a 2:15….a time that has still never even been close to be approached by pro women marathoners nowadays..when at at least they are competing for the big bucks (alongside men) and there is more of a bio passport system in place.

      1. Buzz

        Sure, but Lucy’s point is that runners don’t stand on the shoulders of previous generations, like scientists for example. Advances in training and technology should benefit both sexes equally, so theoretically the gender gap in competitiveness could be closed quickly.

        1. SageCanaday

          I believe runners do stand (a bit) on the shoulders of previous generations though. Taking performances/history into context we have SOME IDEA (roughly) of “progression” in the sport on both sides.

          But I find Lucy’s example a bit flawed. She says:
          “’re writing off amazing performances as mere anomalies that would be foolhardy to chase and to aspire to bring down.” Well there’s Radcliffe. Just like there’s world class guys in the marathon that progressed from 2:08 to sub 2:05 during the start of the “EPO” era.

          Lucy “compares” Ellie’s CR at the 2012 Western States and the large margin that she took down Ann’s CR (45- full minutes!). But we all know that the 2012 WS100 was an exceptionally cool year. This isn’t meant to say that Ellie isn’t an all-star, amazing runner (she obviously is and she won Comrades too which is incredible!), it’s just that that example isn’t a good one considering the weather conditions that year. I think Ellie would agree, that if it was a “normal hot” year at WS100 the course records wouldn’t have fallen by that much (as we all know 45-min is a huge margin). So that is just a bad example/data point of “progression” and the point she was trying to make IMO.

          Gender aside, I consider Ellie and Ann to be some of the greatest of all time in the sport of MUT (if not the greatest period).. They are simply amazing, well rounded distance running athletes and for sure deserve more credit than they’ve been given.

          Ultimately this is more of a “social issue.” This isn’t so much about “advances in technology and science” (less you want to talk about doping). No, I think this is about what has historically been “unequal opportunity” for women and “unequal pay/representation” for women. It simply has not been fair and there has been a lot of discrimination.

          1. Ellie G

            Data analysis is beyond me, when I can I just run and let others do the analysis. I agree in part my CR was due to weather but no one (myself included) will ever know by how much. Oh, and if you want to analyse it, I got the CR by 50 mins 32 secs, not 45 mins ;) I was 1h20 ahead of Rory who was in 2nd.

            1. SageCanaday

              Ellie, did not mean to say or hint that your performance wasn’t simply amazing that day!

              Thanks for clearing up the large margin of victory over 2nd place Rory and the margin of the CR. Even if it was super hot, I’m sure you would’ve gotten the CR at WS100 by a large margin anyway! But do you think it would have been by 50.5-min?

              Your win at Comrades and then win and CR at WS is simply legendary and a GOAT performance.

              I only brought up your performance (and Radcliffe’s for that matter) because Lucy had mentioned them and I didn’t think her comparisons of relative performance improvements supported her point. Radcliffe’s outlier performance for a very different reason though…

      2. Drew

        Not sure it’s entirely fair to question Radcliffe’s record just because it was so much faster than any other women’s marathon performances before or since. By the same logic, up until Ellie beat Anne Trason’s record at WS you could have questioned Anne’s record as being ‘freakishly good’, and perhaps doubted the validity of that. But no-one does, and since Paula has not been charged with any wrongdoing regarding that record, I’m not sure we should be suspecting anything either.

        Sometimes a runner comes along (male or female) who is just streets ahead of everyone else, and that, combined with circumstances, means that a record is not just beaten, it is crushed. In 2003, Paula ran the London marathon in ‘mixed conditions’, as the IAAF have described it, following male pacemakers and both Ellie and Timothy Olson had a bit of luck with the weather when they set the WS records. Sometimes there’s just a perfect storm of circumstances that mean that a record is shattered, and inevitably that record will stand for a long time.

        Given that Paula’s record is now no longer considered a world record, and instead her 2:17:18 record set in London a few years later, the gap between that and the next best time of 2:18:20 is only a minute. In marathon terms, not that big a gap.

        1. SageCanaday

          well a heck of a lot more women (especially pro women) run and race road marathons compared to the Western States 100 so the data points are relatively easier to compare and more consistent because of the much, much larger sample size. Fast courses on the road are very flat, accurately measured, and a lot more consistent (weather aside).

          I didn’t even know about 2:17:18 now only being listed as the record. Why is that (because of the “off-score” blood work?)?. That is much, much “less suspicious” than 2:15:25…which again, has been a total outlier for a long time. Having run marathons very close to that time range personally, I can assure you that a 2-minute gap is a very “big gap” at that level….especially when we are talking about shaving seconds off a world record.

          1. Buzz

            2:15:25 was ran in a “mixed-gender” race. Sage, could having a pacer who blocks the wind for you during the whole race (plus help with even pacing) be worth a minute ?

            1. Shannon Johnstone

              I believe they took Paula’s 2:15 marathon off the world record list not because it was a mixed race, but because she had male pacers. I don’t agree with this decision, but just wanted to explain the distinction.

  6. Buzz

    “While women’s records may have more room for improvement, so, too, does a five year old than an eight year old. But any parent would tell you that it would be ridiculous to compare a five year old to an eight year old, as the development in that window is immense.”

    That’s a bad comparison. Comparing a 5 to an 8 year old would be the same as women and men competing against each other directly. A better comparison is whether it’s more impressive if 10-yo with one year running history has a 10-second mile PR, vs a 16-yo who has been running for 7 years. Case in point, the Tamalpa Headlands 50k’s women’s CR is still 20% slower than the men’s even after last year’s massive prize money.

    IMO at this point both women’s and men’s fields are competitive enough that you should award the same fixed rewards for a win or CR, but to make it a percentage of previous records is silly.

    Did Yiannis Kouros get any money for his world records ?

    1. John R

      Buzz makes great points. Also, I believe the Paula Radcliffe situation gives insight into the problem with trail races today. You could be say the best guy in a field and way out in front, take wrong turn and now you lose. Whereas women have the advantage of running next to mid pack guys and staying on course. Men and women should race separate.

      Also prize money equality is simple. Base it off of statistics. On regular occasion women finish quite distant from winner yet still win money. A man with a far better performance could finish a minute back of winner and go home empty handed. This can happen in both genders but is seen more frequently in womens eventd. So it’s best to say, if an athlete isn’t competitive then they get no money. Guarantee only top 3 podium finishers but if 4th is 5 mins back in a half marathon then they receive nothing. Fair?

      Also Sage speaks of equality, currently women can make money easier than males in the professional road, marathon and track events globally. You wanna argue that? You can but it would be futile as stats prove that conclusion. I’d say men’s races need more money than women’s in total due to the simple idea of competitiveness. Sure equal pay for top 3 or so men and women but after that, typically women’s races fall off quite a bit more than women’s

      1. Paul

        I am happy to argue it:
        “Of the 2010 Census population, 157.0 million were female (50.8 percent) while 151.8 million were male (49.2 percent).” []

        So unless greater than 50% of race/endorsement money goes to women as part of the general population I think your point fails. Now if you are only looking at a certain age group that would be interesting. Since, it seems there are more live birth boys than girls, but girls have longer life spans you could subdivide the population by age. My guess from watching television commercials, the larger amount of endorsement money to men would keep this from ever reaching equality.

        My guess is that you might want to argue who participates totally. However, this brings up more fun statistics and even sociological stuff! Then we can digress to hurdles and societal norms. Yippee!! Which if framed right we could use America Ninja Warrior to see if Katy (sp?) has caused greater female participation. Then we could see if their is a difference in the cost of child birth as related to competing for prize money (if children are considered a benefit to society). I bet we could figure a percentage increase due to women breaking records just because of this.

  7. Markus

    Jamil Coury had a little inconsistency in his price money scheme but I think he was trying to do the right thing.

    While the 24 hour race is heavily raced, the 100 mile distance on roads/track is not. Until a couple years ago it was almost never offered. So there must be some wiggle room in these 100 mile records.
    But Kouros 188+ miles over 24 hours from 1997 might sit there for another 25 years.

  8. Gordo

    True equality would be where there is one record. You break it, you win the prize money. Man, woman, gay, straight, transexual, hermaphrodite, asexual, or just plain confused … it shouldn’t matter. Totally condescending to women to have two categories. The important question is whether a woman breaking the men’s record wins the manly purse. Anyone know?

    1. Ellie G

      I feel you should submit this idea to the International Olympic committee, or any other professional sporting organisation for that matter. My oh my ….

      1. Buzz

        I think Gordo is just trolling. However there is the issue that pay inequality in sports is fundamentally different from most other arenas in life where women and men are equally good lawyers, teachers, managers, and everyone competes together regardless of gender.

        Sports is entertainment and sales, so it’s going to be much more murky. Nobody seriously thinks that players in the WNBA should have the same salary as in the NBA.

        1. SageCanaday

          ” Nobody seriously thinks that players in the WNBA should have the same salary as in the NBA.”

          Buzz, that is exactly the kind of attitude that has likely caused discrepancies in pay between men and women for “equal work” and wronged women from equal opportunity over the years in many different careers.

          As a “fair” society maybe we should actually question: “Why shouldn’t WMBA players get a comparable salary compared to NBA players?” Or at least something remotely in the same ballpark? How about in other sports?: Are women olympic athletes in track not as worthy as their male olympians? They both are representing their country in the the same events.

          For big business (‘entertainment and sales’), one may point to viewing metrics, marketing exposure, and say “hey, the number of people watching men play basketball is thousands of times greater than the number of people who want to watch women play basketball after college,” so of course men in the NBA deserve millions more..” And of course marketing/sponsorship/salary/ isn’t going to be exactly fair. Society has dictated “value.” “Value” on looks, “value” on actual athletic ability and “value” to entertain. Obviously there are certain highly “marketable traits” that make the playing field in general extremely uneven.

          The big fact is that women have historically and consistently been discriminated against a ton (especially in sport) and it’s been wrong. It’s a social injustice and those kinds of things really grind my gears.

          1. Buzz


            ”Nobody seriously thinks that players in the WNBA should have the same salary as in the NBA.” if you accept the facts on the ground that the US has a capitalistic society. It’s too hypothetical for me if you lose that assumption. Who is to say if it’s worth more to be the best basketball player, or a teacher or a politician.

            1. SageCanaday

              Fair enough to make that assumption. We can bring up points/argue about economic influences, politics, and “societal values” all day. What I’m really trying to get at is how all these things have influenced why women are still so discriminated against..even in a sport like (U.S.) ultra-trail running.

              If we look at business and companies involved in sport, I’d like to think (and call me a “naive optimist”) that brands that sponsor and support runners don’t always think about what is best for their “bottom line” or always act out of their own best, self interests (and this goes with races/events/too!) for profit. I’d like to think that some “higher up” people and brands and races actually reward and support runners based on actual merit: hard work, and great performances… regardless of sex.

              From what I’ve seen this unfortunately does not seem to be the case (yet) in mountin-ultra-trail running. There is a lot of discrimination in this sport in regards to gender – and the support/recognition/opportunity that women get for their hard work and top performances (compared to men) is definitely not equal. I think that’s wrong.

            2. Jim Van Orman

              The pay gap is not strictly related to viewership/revenue. Take women’s soccer: historically, it brings in less revenue than men’s, but not nearly by the factor of ~4 difference in pay. More recently, the revenue from U.S. women’s soccer has outstripped men’s, but the pay gap persists.

        2. Gordo

          No, not trolling, just pointing out an uncomfortable truth. Unless you’re willing to admit that women are physically inferior to men, it’s the only fair solution. Now if you’re willing to take that step, making the purse size identical is still unfair. What if twice as many of one sex enter as the other? Why should the purses be equal if you only have to beat half as many other people to win? A purse ratio based on the number each sex entered in a race would be more fair. Handicapping races to make up for female physical shortcomings and having one purse would be totally reasonable and more fair as well. Enough men and women have run enough ultras at this point to compute a pretty reasonable handicap. I’m arguing that merely matching purse size is less fair than a couple of reasonable alternatives.

          No one addressed the important question: If a woman wins the overall in a given race, does she win the big manly purse or the small womanly one with the big manly purse going to second(or lower!) place? If it’s the small one, that’s seriously messed up.

    2. John G

      I totally disagree. Women’s bodies are not built with same musculature, % body fat, skeletal architecture, etc. as a man’s. I think one way to embrace and value differences is to recognize and honor them. If you think about it, although still flawed as Pam points out, ultra running generally does a marvelous job at valuing both genders. Two people, one of each gender, are considered to have won a race. Both compete at the same time on the same course. The genders help, encourage, and respect each other. If you were honest for a moment, you would realize how remarkable it is that women train so hard as to overcome their physical disadvantages and finish near or even at the overall top. And they look athletic, courageous, and female doing it. As a man, I am fortunate there is no objective way to measure character, courage, work ethic, and pain endured, to make such things the criteria for podiums, because I believe women would win way more than they do now based on elapsed time. Consider all the women you’ve ever heard complain publicly about their physical disadvantages, or whine about being pushed aside on single track, or give any other excuses relating to gender, like nasty comments in races, their fear of training alone, family time commitments, or of having to risk the cessation of natural body function just to train harder. That’s right, I never hear them complain either. They just gut it out, and work even harder for the right to compete and suffer in the same events as the men.

      1. Sandi

        “If we look at business and companies involved in sport, I’d like to think (and call me a “naive optimist”) that brands that sponsor and support runners don’t always think about what is best for their “bottom line” or always act out of their own best, self interests (and this goes with races/events/too!) for profit. I’d like to think that some “higher up” people and brands and races actually reward and support runners based on actual merit: hard work, and great performances… regardless of sex.” – Great comment! There are a few brands like that (needs to be more!) and I actually think this leads to many extremely loyal followers. Sure, some people don’t care what a company does as long as the products are okay, but more and more people are starting to care about the values of a company.

        As a former collegiate basketball player and someone who has followed the WNBA since the first season I definitely think that WNBA players deserve to make just as much as NBA players. (Though of course the WNBA season needs to be longer so women don’t have to go overseas to play for part of the year.) :)

  9. Mark

    Only partially on topic, but how do people feel about races designed to make the genders competitive with each other? For example, the women start a set amount earlier and run the same course. Top 3 overall finishers get the prize money. With a trail ultra as compared to a road marathon or track race, it’s harder to figure out the appropriate time gap. So it might have to be a course where there is a decade or more of data on finishing times. But I would love to see at least one major race each year where the elite men are trying to chase down the elite women.

    1. Ellie G

      100% agree and would love to see a race like this. It would give a higher profile to women as they’d not be so ‘lost’ among the male runners.

        1. Mark

          Fascinating. That’s a great way to do it. I wonder if it could work in a big ultra. And elite running couples would throw another bit of drama into the mix. Can you imagine seeing Tim Tollefson chasing down Lindsay Tollefson at the finish? Or David Roche going after Megan Roche? Sage Canaday and Sandi Nypaver?

      1. Buzz

        They do that in marathons and I think that’s great. Is it feasible in long ultras though ? Would the women’s field get a 4-hour head start in a 100-miler ? IMO the point is not to have a handicap for men that allows for a fair race between the sexes, but to allow women to have their own competition.

        1. Mark

          Yeah, seems like it would be more difficult to get the right gap for the longer races. The time differences between the first man and first woman at Western States the last few years:
          2016 – 2:18
          2015 – 4:17
          2014 – 3:08
          2013 – 3:20
          2012 – 2:01
          2011 – 2:21
          2010 – 3:54

          So assuming no pace changes (big assumption), a starting gap between 2:30 and 3:00 would have given three victories to women and four to men.

          The current system, as Ellie noted, makes it so the fastest women tend to get a bit lost in the field. Having entirely separate races by gender means double the organization, volunteering, etc.

          1. Buzz

            It’d have to be 2.5-3 hours difference if you wanted to set up an artificial race between the sexes, which I previously said should not be the point. For example the London Marathon has a 45-minute stagger between elite women and the rest of the field, which is about double the time difference between the men’s and women’s winners.

    2. Mark

      As an example, last year’s TNF 50 was an incredible race between Zach and Hayden on the men’s side and Ida and Magdalena on the women’s side. If the women had started exactly an hour earlier and nobody changed their pace, the results would have been:

      Zach Miller (6:56:03)
      Hayden Hawks (6:58:07)
      Ida Nilsson (6:59:49)
      Magdalena Boulet (7:06:12)
      David Laney (7:15:16)

      Of course, Ida may have been able to improve by 3 or 4 minutes if Zach and Hayden were on her heels. Regardless, that would have made one of the most exciting races of the year even more exciting, in my opinion.

  10. Jakub

    I agree that women should get the same prize money as men (in absolute amount). It’s incentivising and as everyone else, I want to see amazing participation regardless of gender. Also, when the competitiveness in both categories equals out eventually, it will also be fair! However, it’s hard to be too harsh to organisers sometimes. And this is why:

    Based on frequency of record breaking performances in both categories, you can compute something like an “expected payout” at the end of each race. Example: Assume that men will break the record with probability 1/10 (no reason for this number) and I have a budget of $200. Then I set the prize at $2000. That’s because I expect to pay those $2000 once in 10 races. If, on the other hand, women will break the record with probability 1/5 (pure speculation), and I have the same budget of $200 for them, then I set the prize at $1000. That’s because I expect to pay that $1000 once in 5 races. So at the start of a race, it seems like women have lower prize money ($1000 vs $2000 for men). However, over the course of the event, the organisers will have paid out the same amount of money to women as to men.

    That said, I’m in favour of women having the same prize money for each race individually. The competitiveness will equal out eventually, and we owe it to all women for all the times our grandfathers used phrases like “you throw like a girl”, and “you run like a girl”.

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