a sea of (white) humanity

take a look at the following race photos:

(ottawa marathon – source)

(toronto waterfront marathon – source)

(boston marathon – source)

for years, i have had this rant bubbling in my brain that just wished to come out, but i didn’t know how to argue my thesis in a succinct and pithy manner. here’s the upshot of what i’ve been ruminating on:

marathons are so white.

i wanted to let loose about how the number of white marathon runners does not reflect our population composition, about how it is an elitist sport, about how you need to be at a certain socio-economic-level to qualify for and participate in the boston marathon…i’ve just never been able to clearly articulate my thoughts on paper (or in a microsoft word doc).

luckily, runner’s world magazine came to my rescue with their december issue:

runner's world, december 2011 issue

i no longer subscribe to the magazine because i can read it for free at the store, but more importantly, i was tired of how they were rehashing similar ideas every few months.

in this issue, however, they have a unique, well-researched and fascinating article:

the question posed by the article...

...and the accompanying visual

i avidly read the article (during a slow spurt, bien sรปr)…and then re-read it and made notes a few days later.

now, the article focuses on persons of african-american origin and their lack of representation in distance running in the u.s., but the concept translates well to canada.

in the u.s., “core” runners, those who tend to enter running events and train year-round, are 90% caucasian, 5.1% hispanic, 3.9% asian and 1.6 % african american (p 94 of the article). i’d say that in canada, the 90% caucasian stat is likely also the case, but i’d propose that asians are next most represented group.

i will not hijack the entire article – i encourage you to seek it out on your own here.

to pique your interest, though, here are the three main questions asked:

  • what does account for the low participation numbers among minorities?
  • what obstacles do minority runners face?
  • what can be done to address this lack of diversity?

(these questions are found on p 95).

the reason i liked this article so much is because it is not just a whine about how we need to increase minority participation in running (a main benefit being that it is “an inexpensive and effective way to address health problems of at-risk populations” [p 97]). rather the author states his queries, provides supporting statistics, quotes professionals from several relevant fields, then answers the question, “what might be done?”

i’ll highlight just one of his five proposals: “media could be more conscious of race when choosing models” (for photos that accompany stories and for advertisements).

i love this idea. while finishing up the runner’s world article, i had a brainwave – i grabbed the latest edition of our in-house magazine in order to see exactly how diverse the models were for stories and ads.

you can pick up the magazine for free!

in our november/december issue, i found one asian male included in the promotional ad on the back of the magazine cover:

the ad in question

on the inside of the front cover, the asian male’s face is obscured:

sorry for the blur - they're jumping too fast, haha!

so, he is in the ad but you need to look carefully to pick out his nationality. all other stories, ads, features show white males and females. wow.

now – what is fabulous is the article which talks about kids running (it’s on page 34 of the issue) – it’s totally multi-cultural! how wonderful!

great photo

if we are to change the make-up of long distance race participants, it is key to target children. with events like the terry fox run, and run for the cure, we have opportunities to get kids interested in running, and encourage them to be life-long fitness enthusiasts. today’s 1 k elf run participant may very well race a future boston marathon !

in closing, i’ll reiterate that it’s worth your while to read the runner’s world piece. today’s blog post does not capture all my thoughts and ideas on this complex and multi-faceted topic, but it’s a start.

share any personal observations or thoughts that you wish – i’d love to continue this discussion!


november thankfulness:

(for thursday november 17): yesterday…i think i was thankful…or else i am really in trouble…that

i need to read these every day


oh golly, miss molly.

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • Zo  On November 18, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    This is a really interesting topic . . . I also hadn’t realized the lack of diversity in running. I like that the magazine offered solutions rather than just pointing out the issues.
    There is a lululemon near me, in princeton. I’ve walked around, but have never bought anything.

    • 1970kikiproject  On November 18, 2011 at 4:02 pm

      that’s what really struck me, zo – so often the media sensationalize a topic – all kinds of problems/issues are highlighted by no “where do we go from here?” steps are offered. this article was moderate in tone and offered ideas which i thought was quite refreshing. i find it very challenging to walk out of lululemon without dropping some $!!!

  • Dorry  On November 18, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    yay for lululemon! I wish I could come work at that store for a day and meet you. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • 1970kikiproject  On November 18, 2011 at 2:55 pm

      ahhh, that would be awesome!! the retail geek in me wonders if there is much difference between canadian and u.s. merchandise and store operations!

  • Johanna B  On November 18, 2011 at 9:53 am

    I saw the headline in this month’s issue but I haven’t read it yet. I’m still reading the previous month’s. I do look forward to reading it because it’s an interesting topic.

    • 1970kikiproject  On November 18, 2011 at 9:59 am

      oh, please let me know when you have read the article, johanna. i’d love to hear your opinion. i take it you are getting thru a backlog of magazines?! haha! (i know you are a fan!).

  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat  On November 18, 2011 at 9:44 am

    OMG I’m so excited about the new Lulu too Cathy!! I hope that they have some better selection than when we had one last Christmas – it might have just been the day that I went in but there didn’t seem to be much selection. I assume you’re going to see it today, so let me know how it is!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • 1970kikiproject  On November 18, 2011 at 9:57 am

      they have a very nice selection right now, angela – it’s not huge, but several styles of tops, pants, capris…the whole deal. and they are getting more stock in, i was told. mom and i are heading over this eve!! hope you can get there soon, too! better than driving to oakville, eh?!

  • Ali  On November 18, 2011 at 9:37 am

    LULULEMON OPENED K_W??? Why did I not know this?

    • 1970kikiproject  On November 18, 2011 at 9:50 am

      haha, we need to be friends on fb, ali! i posted a freak out “LULU IS IN WATERLOO!!!” two seconds after i walked in! yes – uptown waterloo mall and they will be there until the end of january!!! let me know if you get there!

  • Stephanie  On November 18, 2011 at 7:29 am

    What an interesting post. Not having been to any running events, I didn’t realize that there was so little diversity in most running races. Is this true even in Toronto? Food for thought. Thanks for sharing.

    • 1970kikiproject  On November 18, 2011 at 8:32 am

      from what i have seen in toronto, there IS more diversity in runners…however, i don’t think the percentages of visible minorities reflects the general population at all. in waterloo, it is vastly white!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: