Put your money where your mouth is...

Being fair does not mean a giveaway


March 24, 1994

Dear Running Wild,

It is highly ironic that your editor’s notes would be titled “Being Fair,” as it was you who could hardly be accused of being fair. You bashed Fila, the U.S. Mountain Running Team and an unnamed female trail runner. Not to mention the didactic spanking you gave the rest of us.

Let me start with your statement, “This makes absolutely no sense to us whatsoever.” If you look on page 14 of the same issue you will see the results of the Fila Everest SkyMarathon. As noted 25 runners, of which only three were women, started the race. 35% of the prize money does not look too bad when one considers that women made up only 12% of the field. If anything, this is in favor of the female athletes when one considers that every woman in the field went home with prize money and most of the males went home with altitude sickness (!?). Throughout the results of your magazine, the percentage of women runners to men is very low. All in all, I find the percentage method a somewhat equitable solution to a relatively new issue in U.S. trail/mountain running. I say new issue because, as you so dutifully pointed out to the letter writer in the December 1993 Running Wild, there are very few races that offer substantial prizes, let alone cash, for winners. The now defunct Doc Holliday Trail Run used the female/male percentage to determine the prize money structure of its race.

Fewer women competing in races means at any given performance level there are fewer women. This brings to mind another, albeit more controversial, reason for unequal payments. When you wrote, “For their training and effort, the top three women trail runners are only worth 35 on the dollar,” you imply that there is equal performance on the part of male and female trail runners. You will find this to be rare in most trail/mountain races when one considers 1) The male/female percent difference of record times of trail/mountain runs versus the male/female percent differences for record times of road running events of similar time and 2) the time spread of the top males verses the time spread of the top females. Mount Washington, a race you did mention in your response to the letter writer, has obviously looked at this issue as they offer $1,000 for a male course record but only $500 for a female course record. While at first I am sure you would cry foul, try to keep in mind that the female record for the hour-long event is more than 12 minutes slower than the men’s record. Also, keep in mind that Mount Washington offers a $1,000 bonus to a woman who breaks 1:10, but only a $500 bonus to a man who breaks one hour. Most importantly, however, this is NOT comparing women to men, but women to women.

Concerning the chances that the top woman runner will win the $10,000 prize for overall male in the Fila SkyMarathon Circuit (actually $7,000 for the circuit, $3,000 for winning the last race) being “practically zilch,” I will go you one better. There is no chance whatsoever. Nor will a woman win the men’s $5,000/ $3,000 prizes for second/third in the circuit. However, there is a 100% chance that the top woman runner will win the $3,000 overall female circuit prize. As there is a 100% chance that the second place female will win $2,000 and the third $1,000. Then again, maybe not a 100% chance, as a stipulation has been added that there be a minimum of five female entrants to prevent another repeat of the every female is a winner scenario. As you should know better than anyone — your magazine was contacted to get the names of potential athletes for the Tibet race — the race organizers were interested in one male and one female U.S. athlete. Despite repeated attempts, the organizers could not get a top female athlete and, in the end, picked two male athletes. Again this year, the organizers have tried to contact many top female athletes — many recommended by you — to almost no avail.

You could have waxed philosophical a little longer and perhaps started a worthwhile debate about awarding money based on percentage or performance. You could have offered some suggestions on how to get more women involved in trail/mountain running. Instead, you stood on your soap box offering niceties like “patently unfair” and “based solely on sex.” Your attempt to be p.c. worked if by p.c. you mean Potentially Costly to the sport of trail/mountain running. With accusations such as sexual discrimination facing a major sponsor of a mountain race, one could not blame them if the first leg of their series did not return to the U.S. in 1995. I do not think FILA has been as unfair as you would have us believe. FILA, by the way, and as you stated, is sponsoring the races; Mountain Runners Inc. organize the races and spend the money. What would seem patently unfair, however, would be to continue to give females money for showing up and making males race their guts out just because of their sex. Look again at the times for the males who placed second through fifth in the Tibet race. I watched the guy who ended up in 5th place lose $1,000 in the last 200 yards. Over an hour later, the third of three women all but walked in for $400. If that is being unfair to female runners, I only wish someone would be that unfair to me!

As far as the men’s U.S. Mountain Running Team offering to alternate years with a women’s team or looking for some well-off female trail runner to make money available for said team — why should they? Why not look no further than your own magazine as a source of money for both the men’s and women’s teams. After all, it was you who preached, “We should each follow through with what we say we believe in.” Start a fund with a percentage of your revenues. As for the rest of us, who knows, maybe we can all sell our little rocks that are covered with shellac that you mentioned were the prizes to most races and donate the money to the fund.


Matt Carpenter

P.S.: Our sport is growing whether we like it or not. New races are starting all over the country. More and more races are reaching their desired entry limits. The races that have been filling up are doing so quicker. This growth may bring with it some of the very things we were trying to get away from when we started running trails in the first place. However, this growth also represents opportunity. Be it magazines selling more ads, races offering prize money or just more races, we must accept change with our eyes open and our brains turned on. Prize money affects very few people; of the people I saw it affect in Tibet, the women were joking that they just had to finish, while the men were not joking.

This was my follow up to my first letter. I never did get a response to either letter and in fact Running Wild is no more...

June 24, 1994

Dear Running Wild

I missed my letter in response to what I feel was a one-sided PC attack on FILA. A quick follow-up on the prize money at the FILA US SkyMarathon race in Aspen.

The person (Vicki Ash) who wrote the letter to FILA complaining about the prize money distribution being unfair, did not finish. There were 28 male finishers and 9 female finishers. This works out to 32% of the finishers being female. The females received 33% of the prize money. This does not sound so “patently unfair” to me... Everyone who signed up for the race pre-cutoff date was accepted with one exception. A runner who demanded $2,000 in appearance money was turned away.

Because Americans Robb Reece and Lyndon Ellefson were so close to 3rd place the rules were changed and they were invited to the other races. I think this is a great gesture!


Matt Carpenter

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