Proud to Be Chicked

Yeah, that’s right fellas. You read the subject line correctly. I say it’s time to put aside the egos, curb the sarcasm, and embrace some humility.

I “got chicked” two Saturdays ago by Ellie Greenwood at Western States, AND I’M PROUD TO SAY IT.

Ellie ripped by me like a (feminine) raging bull just before the Highway 49 crossing, late in the race. My first and only thoughts when I turned around to see her charging up the hill were “HELL YEAH, ELLIE!” “KILL IT!” “CRUSH IT!” “WOOHOO!”

I was elated for her, and inspired at that moment. Never did it enter my stuppored mind that I should be flogging myself for “getting chicked.” I was nothing but happy for Ellie. When I looked at my watch, whether she knew it or not at the time, I knew she was going to crush the women’s course record and likely come in under 17 hours (which she did). My pace quickened (if only for a bit) by the adrenaline rush Ellie gave me, seeing her out there giving her all, throwing down a awe-inspiring athletic performance.

HELL YEAH I was proud in that moment to get chicked. I was having a terrible time at that point in the race, just trying to suffer through to the end, and keep up somewhat of a pathetic running pace. My race had gone from bad to despicable around Green Gate and I was no longer concerned with who was passing me.

Now, I will readily admit I’m a competitive spirit. I normally don’t want to get passed by anyone in a race. At Foresthill, I was utterly focused on running down Timmy and Ryan. I went into that race wanting to win. But, the day held other adventures and challenges for me. Embracing the ultimate uncertainty of ultra races is part of why we love it. You just never know what will happen. So, in that spirit, I argue part of the spirit of ultrarunning is letting go of the ego and self-focus at times in a race, and turning your energy and passion to cheering on a fellow runner. I know we all do that, but it’s more important to embrace it when a boss woman like Ellie is passing you. Even if in jest, muttering to yourself, “damn, here we go… I’m getting chicked,” in a moment like that is a waste of breath.

What Ellie (and Timmy) did that day was beautiful. It was art, pure and simple. A perfect mind-body synergy that moved her beyond mortal for those minutes and hours to run a 16:47. Incredible. That’s what we all want out there. That’s why we do it, man or woman alike. We want to touch that space. We want to enter that flow, where mind-body is one. Where the last 20 miles feel like floating. It’s rare, it’s very difficult.

If I’m not the one that’s able to run that hard on race day, I’m damn happy to see someone else doing it, regardless of gender.

I know most of the jeering and ribbing by guys (often elites) about “getting chicked” is nothing more than sarcastic tongue-in-cheek humor, with no ill intentions. But, there is a serious undertone: guys truly don’t like to get beaten by women, and there’s a subtle implication in that statement—“getting chicked”—that somehow women are not seen as strong or capable as men, and if a guy is passed by a gal, it’s somehow the guy’s pathetic weakness allowing it, rather than the woman’s strength.

Well, the hell with that. Two weeks ago, Ellie wrote a piece on iRunFar about getting chicked, and someone else can go into the feminist theory behind why stereotypes like this still pervade our society, even the most sophisticated of minds—male ultrarunners…..ha-ha, yeah right! Ellie argued in her piece that this phrase shouldn’t be overanalyzed—“who really cares whether you’re a guy or a woman—we’re all just runners.” Hear, Hear, Ellie!

All I am saying is that women like Ellie are bad ass, tough, and as strong as anyone else. I got chicked in May at the Transvulcania 83km by another bad-ass woman—Anna Frost. I was having another torturous day (seems to be the theme of my year thus far), and she passed me in the last few kilometers. I was walking up the hill, she was running spritely, like it was the first few kilometers of the race. Again, it never crossed my mind to bemoan the moment, and the fact that I was getting chicked. I instinctively was all smiles and cheers for Anna and the great race my friend was having. But, that day, the thought of being chicked did enter my mind. For some reason, I thought about the shit-giving I was likely to get at the finish line by other elites (I know, in jest) for getting chicked right before the finish. That sucks. It’s plain stupid. It’s time for this phrase to hit the garbage disposal.

If you are a woman, you had better be worried about the Ellies and Annas on race day. If you are a man, you better be just as worried. The sport is evolving. Accept it. It’s an amazing thing. And, even if you would not usually get chicked, if you have an off day, or falter for even a moment, the Ellies and Annas of the ultraworld will come stomping down over your back. I’m proud to see them do it.

We should all be so lucky to experience another person’s greatness, honor that moment selflessly, and cheer them on wholeheartedly.

There are 10 comments

  1. Fernando N. Baeza


    Great article, and congrats on your finish…you never gave up, and never surrendered. You kept pushing, thats also a tremendous feat, pushing and pushing until you feel you cant go and yet continue to push. Great run Mike! Respectfully, Fernando N. Baeza

  2. Mike Hinterberg

    I thought you were going a different direction on this, until

    "But, that day, the thought of being chicked did enter my mind. For some reason, I thought about the shit-giving I was likely to get at the finish line by other elites (I know, in jest) for getting chicked right before the finish. That sucks. It’s plain stupid. It’s time for this phrase to hit the garbage disposal."

    100% agree. Fast is fast!

  3. Ian Sharman

    Mike, there are so many great runners, male and female, that there's certainly no shame in being beaten by their incredible performances. Celebrating those runs is what helps to push us all on to improve and the competition is a hell of a lot of fun too.

  4. John

    Bravo man. I really admire your attitude regarding this as well as your willingness to gut out tough finishes. I'll personally be a mid packer in every race I run and I've never had an instant in which being passed by a man or woman was anything but cool. As you pointed out…getting passed is less about your weakness and more about the other runners strength.

    As far as gutting out finishes goes, both yours and Hal's (And numerous other runners) finish at UTMB last year along with your finish at Western States this year are truly inspiring. We all tend to get wrapped up with the times people can throw down on good days but I'm always super inspired by the finishes people can put together when things aren't going as planned.

  5. adam

    I was energized last year at WS when you came running around the track with the Montana flag flying high! I'm even more inspired by your race & words this year! Way tough it out and good luck at all your races this year.

  6. Aaron Sorensen

    I was at the finish for the TNF 50 in San Francisco. I made my way up to the aid station at mile 47 and watched the first 4 come through before jogging back down to the finish. What seemed like just a few minutes later and while the big guns were still finishing, woosh, in comes Anna.

    A minute before she crossed the word got to the finish line that she was coming in and it became dead silent for a good ten seconds before the atmosphere really picked up until she came in.

    In those ten seconds, everyone's jaws were dropped. I think it took a few seconds for even the elite to calculate in their heads if this were even possible. There were still many fast people out there, some that were even scraping for the lead in the first part of the race.

    The hoots and hollers that perused up to her finish were so well deserving for her performance she gave that day. She even crossed the line like she had just taken a walk in the park.

    I think the guys should think of it as not being chicked but as I just got shown up by a bad ass that just happens to be a chick!

  7. Roger Soto

    As Ellie said in her post, that may worry the top-10 ultrarunners, the other know for sure are going to "be chicked". Myself being a middle pack runner, I take for granted that in any race I am going to be beaten by several women, as well as by several men. Didn't we agree ultrarunning was a race against oneself??

  8. Mikey P

    Pacing Ellie from Green Gate on that wonderful day I was forbidden from mentioning anything about time. Our focus was distance and perseverance alone. After we passed you on the trail Ellie expressed to me her absolute admiration for you and your running talent. She is ultimately a competitor but she is even more a comrade. She took no pride in passing you as she also wanted to see you run well. After we passed you she simply spoke for a moment about your greatness and then we refocused back on the goal – Hwy 49 – No Hands – Robie Pt – Finish. For me, it was remarkable to hear you yell, "Yeah Ellie! Kill it!" I really realized then that my tough little best buddy Vancouver running lady had earned the respect of her peers, both male and female. That was a very special day for Ellie (and all of the Vancouver trail running community really) but she will have more. And so will you Mr. Wolfe. Well done to both you and Ellie and all of the other male and female runners at WS 2012. It was certainly a special year.

    1. Ryne

      Well put Mike!

      Congrats on toughing it out and continuing on when the chips were down.

      Ryne (the guy that got chicked pacing in 2011 by Ellie!)

  9. Alex from New Haven

    Thanks for writing this. Exactly how I feel (even though I'm a LOT slower). Just about respect for people giving it their all and loving the sport.

    And let me just say that one thing I LOVED about this year's race was how few elites dropped out. While there are MANY important reasons to drop (Kami's SERIOUS asthma attack etc), I love it when the best of the best respect the race and finish assuming there is no injury/medical reason not to.

    Good luck the rest of the year, it'll click for you soon!

  10. eric hodge

    i never really thought about being chicked as a measure of gender-based athleticism, but rather a dude's desire to always look desirable in a "chick's" eyes, the desire to be impressive in the eyes of the opposite sex. when you're the one who is impressed, it's tough to be the center of attention, and that's tough to take for any dude ;)

    there are so many intellectual aspects to go into winning a race of this magnitude… game plan, nutrition, motivation, mental stability… the raw athletic ability is certainly primary, but much less so than at shorter distances.

    at any rate, i wonder if the term will still be used 50 years from now when all manner of things will have changed in this game.

  11. run1

    Nice article Mike and as a female ultrarunner I'd like to say that male ultrarunners really are some of the most sophisticated minds out there. I don't think I've ever come across a male ultrarunner who seriously cared if he was chicked, and i have never felt intimidated lining up next to the guys at an ultra like i sometimes have in other sporting events. We are extremely lucky to be part of such an inclusive sport.

  12. Anonymous

    Respect Wolfe. The energy and determination that you give out there is what helps us all drive to the finish. You will have 'your' race soon. Keep running strong!

  13. Rider

    "We want to touch that space. We want to enter that flow, where mind-body is one. Where the last 20 miles feel like floating. It’s rare, it’s very difficult."

    That's what I'm talking about.

    1. Wyatt Hornsby

      Anonymous: Not sure if your tone is one of sarcasm or ridicule, but Mike is one of the toughest dudes out there. He had a rough day, as he acknowledges on here. That aside, Ellie is an amazing talent. Watching her splits via my laptop, I couldn't help but think she's like Ann Trason must have been–dominant in just about every facet of the sport. Look at what she's done at Comrades, at States, and at many other races and it's obvious Ellie is on a whole different level and can compete handedly with anyone and in any race. And speaking of being on whole different levels, Mike is to be applauded for writing this post.


  14. fred p

    It's understandable when some guys are upset when passed by a lady. Put simply,

    guys produce much more testosterone than women, which is widely known as one of the most potent performance enhancers out there. So, not only are these fast ladies passing most of us, they are doing so without this added benefit. Beeyaaatches.

  15. Maria

    You said you won't go into the feminist theory, but you said it well: "there’s a subtle implication in that statement—“getting chicked”—that somehow women are not seen as strong or capable as men, and if a guy is passed by a gal, it’s somehow the guy’s pathetic weakness allowing it, rather than the woman’s strength."

    Exactly why I don't like the phrase and why it can be sexist even in jest. Great essay.

  16. Ian Campbell

    i have always held the view that its the race time that counts and not who does it, male or female who cares… so well said Mike, good on you……

  17. ultraRNner

    IMHO, getting "chicked" sounds like a "racer" problem.

    As a (mere) "runner", I enter races to do MY best and enjoy the course to MY fullest. I do so with the full knowledge that younger, older, and opposite gender runners will finish ahead of me – and that is OK. Like Mike, I'm inspired by the effort of those performing better than I and use it as motivation to continue (today) and improve (next race). Maybe I'm a hippie-in-disguise but I prefer camaraderie to competition.

  18. Willem

    Guys don't like to be overtaken period. Not by girls, not by other men, hell even if a horse overtakes them they'll figure they can overtake the horse at the next bend in the road. It's the basis of all competitive sports and nothing special until you let it get to you. It's like jealousy as a sign of desire.

  19. Drew

    Having got my better half into running and seen her progress far faster than I ever did, I'm comfortable in the knowledge that she may well end up better than me. But if that's the sole reason someone runs – to be 'better than everyone else' then they're missing the point. True runners don't 'get chicked', because true runners don't think like that.

    At least that's the way I look at it…

  20. Darthrunner

    Just to add another perspective, I asked my wife what her opinion was on the term "chicked". She laughed and said "Well, there should be a word for getting beat by a girl."

    Reverse sexism? Should I be offended? Enraged? Nah.

    Being upset about being bested by anyone who performed better than you is silly, regardless of gender, age, etc. Being upset about your wife telling you that you got chicked is futile.

    Have fun and take it all with a grain of salt.

  21. David A

    I'd suggest the word is faintly ridiculous as is the premise that one might use or accept the word without there being some negative implication. The article even unwinds it's own argument with the final 'it could only happen on an off day' statement.

    Have a look for any comparable terms in say, academic exams where performance is often seen as genuinely independent of gender. I can't help but think the very use of the word acknowledges the issue that this article tries to refute.

    The relative performance of male/female athletes when running ultra distances is an interesting and developing debate. Being 'chicked' on the other hand seems to be more a debate about slightly juvenile terminology.

  22. Jon s.

    David A… Less verbage, more mileage… This is an important artical at a very relevant time… We're talking ultra running, not Ivory tower…. Not sure where this overly cerebral element keeps coming from, but we should all lighten up a bit…

    1. David A

      It's a pejorative term used in a casual manner.

      The vast majority of us are beaten by younger, fitter, better trained more talented runners every time we take to the trails – male and female – it makes no odds.

      I think you'll find the cerebral elements in the article … lighten up yourself.

  23. Eric

    Something else to consider — I seem to recall hearing that the relative difference in men's and women's sports abilities are less at the ultra distances. A woman's physiology is better at handling the pain of a 100-miler as compared to men. Now, with more women entering these races, we are likely to see more women placing near the top of overall finishers.

  24. Jon s.

    David… I said we should all lighten up, not just you… Also, there is a difference between cerebral and overly cerebral…


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