To Be Chicked, Some More

[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Gary Gellin.]

I thought I’d expand, with tacit approval, on an excellent piece by my friend and iRunFar contributor, Ellie Greenwood. In the spirit of good humor, as often shown by Dakota Jones in his writing, I’d like to share some of my personal experiences in over 20 years of racing and being ‘chicked.’

Now before you write this off as a reactionary tirade from a male competitive runner, let me assure you that this is all in good fun. If you don’t believe me, then just ask my wife or my sister or even Ellie Greenwood to vet my sensitivity. Well, don’t do that.

When it comes down to running against the clock, it doesn’t matter who you are–there is at least a one in seven-billion chance that someone can run faster than you. Those are your guaranteed odds. Why not make up a completely arbitrary and fun way to gauge your own effort? If you are an old fart like me and can’t beat the rosy-cheeked mountain runner who finishes an hour ahead of you–off the couch-– and you’re too proud or in denial to claim you are in an age-group category, why not just make up your own category?

According to UltraRunning Magazine records as well as USATF and USA Cycling statistics, I have only been chicked officially on two occasions. However, in my mind, that list is MUCH longer.

My first experience with getting chicked probably goes back to the 1993 (1994?) Sea Otter Classic mountain-bike race. I was hammering along on my mountain bike in the Semi-Pro/Expert Class field about halfway through the race (in my usual ‘almost’ top-third position), when the Pro Women who started five minutes after us gradually picked their way through our field with Juli Furtado leading the charge. I made a comment to Juli as she passed by (I swear, it was something innocuous like “Hi Juli”), and she told me to “Buzz off!” Needless to say, I was impressed and secretly jealous of the tremendous power and endurance of the top pro women. (Side Note: Juli Furtado completely dominated the sport of women’s mountain biking in the 1990s a la Ellie Greenwood in ultrarunning today and is in fact an enthusiastic trail runner now herself!)

Another fond (?) memory of getting chicked was on a bike ride many years ago with my wife, Holly. I think I had 24-hour chronic fatigue syndrome that day and Holly sensed it. Perma-sweet, taciturn Holly really turned the screws on me that day!

My first real, official chicking was at the 2011 Bear 100. I was hobbling down the final zillion-foot descent around mile 93 in the middle of the night when none other than Nikki Kimball came flying down the hill behind me. We had never met, but she sensed I was in a world of hurt. We had time for a quick embrace and then she sped away with the lights of her headlamps disappearing quickly down the infernal jeep road.

My second official chicking was this spring at the Sactown10 mile race. I was towed along at a PR effort by Matt Laye until he jumped at mile eight in order to run the last two miles in less than 10 minutes. (Yeah, no big deal for Matt.) Unfortunately, my shadow, Olympian Kim Conley, took off, too. The thread snapped. Fortunately for my pocketbook, Kim did not show up for the lunch I said I would buy her if she beat me. Maybe it was the fact that I told her my team was going to McDonalds?

Speaking of Matt Laye, the 2014 USATF 100-Mile Trail National Champion (post-race interview, race report), he ran a four-minute PR at the 2014 Boston Marathon in a phenomenally legit time of 2:23! Did you notice that he was chicked nine times over? I did.

I remember well a conversation I had 20 years ago with Shari Kain who is an elite triathlon coach and multi-time national champion in several cycling disciplines and in triathlon. I told Shari while out on the ‘Page Mill Noon Ride,’ aka Wednesday World Championships, that my goal was to have a faster time up Old La Honda Road than the top woman climber in the world, who at the time was local pro Linda Jackson. She commended me for such a noble goal. Affirmation!

As Ellie says, the term ‘chicked’ appears to be heard only in trail ultramarathon circles. For example, you don’t often hear the term at 10k road races. If anyone knows who coined it, please chime in! I do know that the Oxford English Dictionary has certain requirements for adopting new words, and I think our ultrarunning community may be close to a submission!

[Editor’s Note: A couple years ago, Mike Wolfe also wrote an entertaining article about being ‘chicked.’]

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Even though the word ‘chicked’ is regularly used by women themselves in trail and ultrarunning, and it’s regularly used to denote a woman’s badassery rather than a dude’s ability to beat a woman, does it grate a bit against anyone’s feminist sensibilities? If so, how and why?
  • Women, be honest, do you get a charge out of beating men in a race, even when technically we are running our own, separate race? :)
  • And men, similar question, what are your honest reactions to being beat by one or many women during a trail or ultramarathon?

(The purpose of this article is to stimulate a productive and enjoyable conversation, and constructive commentary is necessary for us to have this. Thank you in advance for keeping your comments constructive!)

There are 33 comments

  1. ClownRunner

    What REALLY stinks is when your 9-year-old daughter dusts you on a neighborhood training run. Getting chicked is one thing, but when they are under 10 is just really demoralizes you. Also getting chicked by anyone over 90 would probably stink too…

  2. toofast2serious

    Do women get chicked.. or is it duded? I mean.. is it only a negative connotation when its a male getting beaten by a woman? …. The vast majority of us have never not been chicked. By "us" I mean to say the 95% of participants. What really hurts is when you get mastered (beat by old people), minored (young kids), hipstered (aka Krupicka'd), manpreed (tights, really?!), bearded (aka Krar'd), hippied (long flowing, and or dredded hair), Canadianed (eh!), and finally…blinded (yes, I've been beaten by a blind athlete).. I must admit, I never thought to check their gender (yes, even with the bearded).

  3. andymxyz

    Gary –

    So was the 2013 Bighorn 100 not "official"? Because there you were chicked by both Sarah Mccloskey and Gwen Scott.

    And what about the 2013 China Camp Trail Half? Ultrasignup suggests you were chicked by Marie-Laure Ammons, Kelly O'Mara, Linden Bader, Lauren Newcomb, Kate Ferland, Laura Keller, Natalie Hayen, Janet Todd, Catherine Melton, Christine Chapon, Lindsey Dal Porto, Lisa Oyen, Kerri Dunning, Carol Haubach, Frieda Edgette, Jana Carter, Jennifer Spithill, Heather Rhodes, and 12 other women.

    I could go on — but like a good male competitive runner, I'm sure you'd have excuses for all of those. ;)

    1. garygellin

      Andy – of course not! There's a complicated equation involving Ultrasignup ranking, grams of fiber eaten in the first 12 hours of a long ultra, toenail cuticle hydrostatic pressure, and number of miles run the previous day with Joe Uhan, but I don't want to get too serious with this topic.

  4. mikehinterberg

    I think the *term itself* is used with more positive and less negative connotation in ultrarunning, partly because of respect and camaraderie, but also because of sheer numbers and variance in finishing times. While pure ego can be worth a few seconds of sprinting, or maybe even snap a runner out of a fading pace for the last mile or two of a road race, ego alone is unlikely to be a strong enough force in the last 10 miles of a 100M — let alone the small changes in race position likely to happen at the end of those races.

    "The term ‘chicked’ appears to be heard only in trail ultramarathon circles. For example, you don’t often hear the term at 10k road races."

    But the term has been around for some time
    (urban dictionary)
    and has been used and debated in road races, triathlons, etc. — just google "getting chicked in a race," which also suggests the topic and debate on the internets. Rather than rehash all of that, I'd just like to add that, just because something doesn't bother you individually (perhaps as a more competitive and adulated runner, or the types of races one does), doesn't mean that it's not an inssue.

    So while I agree the term is used less-negatively and even endearingly (e.g. Wolfe's article) at times by friends, the *concept* of male ego racing women whom they don't even know differently exists and is a bit amateurish, IMHO. Anecdotally, I've often seen this while watching my wife and friends finish road races mid-pack: men, often middle-aged or newer runners, will sprint past a woman, yet not similarly past nearby men. Comical and sad, but definitely noticeable. Have also seen blogs, facebook posts, etc. with similar observations.

    While not the worst thing in the world, personally I'd like to see the concept, if not the term, fade away. Constructively, I suggest that experienced racing and training with the opposite sex can be good for everyone, and it makes the concept disappear so that you race *everyone*.

  5. senelly

    Good one. In winning the recent Mountain Lakes 100, my friend Rod Bien (and son of my very good friend, the late Kent Bien) came extremely close to the ultimate chickinator… getting second to a woman!

    My own solution to this and to the problem of having an increasing number of people of every gender finishing before me (it's an age thing) is very simple: I run my own race – no really, I plan, organize, staff, and run my own races… as in every time I run, I don't tell anyone, I sneak out on the trail and high-five myself at the finish. Yay me!

  6. snobbitm

    This expression is sexist and wouldn't exist if our society didn't train men to regard women as inferior and weak. Men who regard women as equals would do well to avoid this slur…or be VERY thoughtful about when and how they use it (assuming there is an appropriate place).

    1. Matt

      Given that humans exhibit gender dimorphism, with males being generally faster and stronger, the term is innocuous and somewhat funny. Acknowledging the obvious differences between genders is not a slur, nor does it undo decades of feminism. Take a look at the records books before you claim that this is because men are taught to regard women as inferior. The statistics speak for themselves.

      I am chicked, hear me roar.

    2. @followthings

      Without addressing whether the expression is sexist, I disagree that the expression "wouldn't exist if our society didn't train men to regard women as inferior and weak." I don't recall ever being in a race that a female has won outright. If you can find an example, it would be rare. It is a fact that athletically females are not equal to males. In the context of males versus females, the gist of the expression is essentially: That person in the generally-faster group got passed by the person in the generally-slower group.

      In races where pros race alongside amateurs, if an amateur passes a pro, can the pro be said to have been "amateured?" Same thing.

      1. lbomaak2

        Actually, examples of females winning races outright are rather common, according to the list at the bottom of this page: . The trend appears to have been started over here in the UK in 1986 by Sarah Rowell at the Seven Sisters Marathon (standard Marathon distance, but off-road and hilly) — a case well known in the running community in the UK. I know of two other examples in the UK, one of them in a shorter (about 8M) fell race.

        In the US, apart from the instances in the page referenced above, there is the case of Nancy Pease, once described as "The Toughest Woman in Alaska": within a couple of months in 1990, she: won the Bird Ridge Climb outright, finishing more than a minute and a half ahead of the first man; set a Women's record at Mount Marathon, which still stands 24 years later; and tied for first place at Crow Pass Crossing with Bill Spencer, himself possibly Alaska's greatest ever mountain runner. However, her Mount Marathon Race record is in danger: at the Junior race at Mount Marathon in 2014, Allison Ostrander finished 42 seconds ahead of the first boy, and she moves up to the Seniors next year. Incidentally, from reading reports of that event it appears that none of the boys minded being "chicked"; they were content to recognise that they were in the presence of one of the all-time greats of Alaskan running, who happened to be female.

    1. Elegabalos

      Wow, that's pretty creepy #whywerun

      It is sexist because even if we exhibit physiological dimorphism, in most ultra races still the majority of runners are male (easily 2:1 in my last race), so by sheer numbers they dominate the lower ordinals. But the inherent polymorphism of the species should mean there are dozens of euphemisms for various body types as jokingly suggested above, such as "Clydesdaled" (tall fat guys) but there aren't. There is only the adjective for a fast male being beaten by a faster female, and that is hurtful, demeaning and therefore sexist. There is everything to suggest that women are getting faster, too, and we should see a spillover of fast female road runners soon, just like the male ultra scene in the last two years.

      To put it simply, the term is used "jokingly" because there is shame implied, and that that is worth mocking is doubly hurtful.

      It is not unlike a man experiencing weakness being referred to as a "bitch", or worse. And I say all this as a male, feminist ultrarunner.

      I was hoping to see more positive comments encouraging the abandonment of the term. I generally see the ultra crowd as more socially and gender-conscious, but maybe that's just here on the west coast.

      Granted, it is a sport dominated by white males, so it isn't surprising to see misogyny brushed off as harmless banter all in the usual guise of reinforcing the heteronormative patriarchal paradigm.

      1. Elegabalos

        Thanks? It's so amusing when old ppl learn to internet and start trolling like it is 2004.

        Okay let me just put this simply for addled brains.

        I am quite happy that despite the MRA demographic – which trends young – that old, uneducated, socially conservative white men are finally starting to fade away as the dominant paradigm.

        Good riddance, this type of thinking (e.g. one woman or a minority says it's ok for them to use a loaded or offensive term, therefore I, a white male, may appropriate it at will! Despite having benefited from white, male privilege my entire life and lacking an iotum of awareness of gender politics and also a socialized, if rather unwitting misogynist at that)…is embarrassing to read and it is not representative of white men in general. I am a younger white male, but I am educated. This is the new paradigm, friend, as scary as it no doubt is to you and your sad ilk.

        Oh and also, sexism isn't reversible. Like racism, it is one way, from the dominant side of the paradigm towards the oppressed. So "duded" is absurd, while "chicked" is ignorant and misogynist.

        Also, my soul is indeed squeezed. Squeezed with compassion for my sisters in solidarity. I can't wait to be an ultra-running, ultra-modern, ultra-liberal stay-at-home feminist dad :)

        My children will read stuff like this and ask me, were men really so mean back then? Yes, unfortunately people long ago thought it was okay to demean an entire gender because it made them feel big and strong. Lol.

      2. @CraigGaver

        "Granted, it is a sport dominated by white males, so it isn't surprising to see misogyny brushed off as harmless banter all in the usual guise of reinforcing the heteronormative patriarchal paradigm."


    2. Meghan Hicks


      Please refrain from these sorts of objectification-of-women comments on iRunFar, whether meant in jest or not. You can imagine they make at least some female readers uncomfortable, including me. Thank you.

  7. @ultrarunt

    the term was sure to have first been uttered by a man. good fun'n all. no matter how much you smile and nod while expressing, how it's all in "good fun"…it's undertone is and will always be sexist.

    I don't like it one bit and will be happy to see it go. In fact, the next time i hear it, I'm going to express how much i don't like it to the unfortunate soul who utters it. If it's going to change, it's up to me.

  8. @davidity

    I don't think twice about being 'chicked'. However, I do realize that one of the benefits of running more on trails is that when I ran any road race there was the constant threat of being 'baby buggied'. Someone, male or female, running at a faster pace while pushing a baby carriage used to really make my feel bad. Now at least when I think "I'm not sure I could go any slower down this technical downhill." I also think "At least it is unlikely I will be passed by anyone pushing a baby carriage."

  9. JohnHnat

    Three years ago, at a trail 50K, I was chicked. I tried to keep up with her, but to no avail. Her orange top pushed ahead farther into the distance (and then disappeared entirely after I tripped over a root).

    After the race, I congratulated her on a good race, and we talked for a few minutes.

    Two months ago, we celebrated our first anniversary. :)

    So no … while this particular outcome was a one-time deal, no I don't mind being passed by a woman in a race …

  10. BlueBklyn

    Sexist. The examples in this post imply that the man wasn't at his "best" and therefore got chicked. Perfect example of implied shame mentioned in the other thread.

    While I've personally never heard another woman use the term, even if they do that doesn't mean it's okay for men.

  11. Doubleplay4

    I need an English dictionary to read some of the comments left on this subject.
    Guys please keep it simple like the term "chicked".

  12. Amy

    I hate the term "chicked" and the accompanying mindset, whether used in jest or not. Have I been imagining that the other men I compete with treat me with the same respect and camaraderie as other men?

  13. @SF_Robinson

    I'm rather certain that 'gender dimorphism' is only part of what what makes the experience of being 'chicked' unsettling for male runners. For example, when I've been chicked in a race I did not think about how my muscle to mass ratio was more optimal than the heroine tromping past me. Rather I was offended with myself for running so poorly that even 'the girls' were passing me. A very silly sentiment, but perhaps an indication of the incredible amount of cultural baggage that hangs onto the experience of being passed by a female runner. My partner always remarks how often men are loath to be passed by her in trail races and how hard they'll push to stay in front of her, often to the detriment of their own performance. We could call it 'ego' but I think it runs a bit deeper than that. So perhaps we should always be a bit suspicious of how quickly we run to science to naturalize gender differences. Anywho, just my off the cuff thoughts. Thanks, Gary for a nice read.

  14. @Watoni

    I think this term has currency in ultra running circles for many reasons, but the key one in my mind is that women can compete to a large degree with men — they may not win many or most elite events, but look at Pam Smith at WS100, Rory at UTMB — top performances regardless of gender. Gary mentions former cycling pro Linda Jackson who runs the Tibco women's pro cycling team (and who rides with some of my group on her slow days). My best Strava time up the local benchmark climb is a few seconds ahead of Linda's, but she could kick my a$$ anytime she wanted — she is elite, I am not. Compared to top male pros, however, women cannot compete in cycling the same way they can in ultrarunning. I think this makes being "chicked" for even elite male runners a real possibility.

    While I know the article was meant in good fun, I do hope we all can embrace the amazing performances of all runners. One of the things that makes the sport special is that all men, women, elites and hacks like me run the same course at the same time. The mutual support on course is really special and all runners should feel valued.

    1. mikehinterberg

      Context of what?
      Ian's article talks about gender-grading of performances.
      What does that have to do with the phrase 'being chicked,' the concept, the idea of racing harder or making a note not to be beaten by a woman (first place or otherwise nearby), or teasing your friends if they are beaten by a woman?

      Look, *statistically*, certain categories of people have certain challenges at a population level. Extending that to a *specific* person at a *specific* race is stereotyping.
      That is different — the opposite, even — of lauding a person for beating the odds when stacked against them (closer to Ian's article).

      But we don't have stupid phrases for when women "beat out" men for executive/CEO positions, or when a minority employee or immigrant child (for example) beats out someone from a statistically advantaged group, despite the population odds.
      So why have this nonsense in racing?

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