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.