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!)