The running world has some interesting vocabulary words. A woman runner who is over 150 pounds can choose to run in the “Athena” division, or, according to this obviously reliable site, in some races, though not those in my neck of the woods, you only need to be 140 pounds to be an Athena. Men over 165 pounds can run in the “Clydesdale” division.
You need to self select to be listed in these divisions, but I suppose the theory is that runners over a certain weight (no matter their muscle mass? their height?) run slower? Not really: according to the results of a recent race, one of those Athenas outpaced me by nearly 4 minutes, though I would have placed 2nd if I ran in that division (I’m not eligible, but it wouldn’t take a lot of extra food and drink to be eligible). BUT, why place yourself in that division for the pleasure of just being listed as having placed in that division? Or are those women (more women select that division than men, it seems) making the statement that their weight (for most, 150 at least is still about average for American women) doesn’t really hurt their performance?
Another interesting term is “Masters”: “Masters” are not the best of the best, but a division for men and women who run races after age 40. Most races already group us by age (40-44, 45-49. etc), but for some big races, there is also a special division for all Masters. Unlike the Athenas and Clydesdales, everyone over 40 is automatically eligible to place in the Masters division.
I’m guessing that the thought behind this category is that older runners are slower runners. Of course, in a recent half marathon I ran, the 3rd place overall finisher was a woman in her 40s! Or perhaps such a category gives hope to those who were fast in their youth, but now creaky with old age and injuries? Since I didn’t start running competitively until I was 40, this lost youth issue presents no problem for me: in fact, I’m looking forward to running and winning in the 60-65 division someday (of course, all those fast 40+ year olds will be aging with me…I may need to move).
In a recent race, I placed in the top 10 of Female Masters. It was not my best time (damned tight quads) . It was a hot day (and I’ve been training in unusually cool weather). And, lucky for me, the really fast 40something women must have been running other races that day. But still, it’s nice to be recognized out of a crowd of hundreds of runners.
But I think Female Mistresses has a much better sound: don’t you agree?