To Be Chicked

Ellie Greenwoods contemplates the role of “being chicked” in ultrarunning as well as shorter-distance road running.

By on June 18, 2012 | Comments

‘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…

Ellie Greenwood
Ellie Greenwood has IAU World 100k Championship, Western States, and Comrades victories to her credit. A Scot living in Canada, Ellie is supported by Salomon, Clif Bar, Udo's Oil, and Sundog Eyewear. You can read more about Ellie's running on her blog.