Back in 2004 the LA Marathon presented a challenge that involved giving women a head start in an attempt to make the final stretch to the finish more competitive, and therefore, more interesting.
On Sunday, March 2 Russian Tatiana Aryasova capitalized on that offer, crossing the finish line before any of the men and winning the $100,000 prize for doing so.
William Burke's (race co-founder and president) reaction? Accoriding to the LA Times he said,
"You can't keep those women down, you can't get them back in the kitchen."
Was he joking? Maybe he meant it to be a compliment. Apparently he didn't crack a smile or indicate in any way that he intended the comment to be friendly. So how do you react to someone like this? Someone that has been on the athletic scene for more than 20 years? He has most definitely seen women excel and even kick some butt.
If he thinks women belong in the kitchen, why then would he create an incentive to keep them out there. it almost feels like it was his way of taunting the women who participate--like it has been his little joke to see who would chase the carrot.
Who knows what motivated Tatiana. Was she after the prize, did she want to prove a point or did she just want to run well?
Maybe one of the reasons a marathon finish is not that exciting is because there just aren't that many people, men or women, that can keep up with the elites. An exciting finish comes from the history and passion of the individuals racing and the fans watching--not from staging a setting where the women are battling the men in the final yards to satisfy the fancy of a race president that has become bored.
I think we should ignore people like Burke and just keep doing what we're doing. He is the one that looks like a fool and no matter what, whether they mean to or not, women will continue to break barriers, exceed expectations, prove naysayers wrong and slowly peck away at chauvinistic doubts.