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Female athletes leading the race

Minute 1: A century of suffrage and sports

100 years ago this week, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, thereby granting women the right to vote. 52 years later, Congress passed Title IX legislation that prohibited gender discrimination by any institution receiving federal funds. Most Americans understand that this second piece of federal law dramatically expanded opportunities for women’s sports, but the roles of athletes in the suffrage battle are less well known. Acrobats and equestrians performing in the circus were among the first female athletes to earn a living from their sports and many used their barnstorming tours of America to raise awareness of the suffragette movement. Excellent details emerge in a story published this week: “The Surprising Role Sports Played in Women’s Suffrage.” Many women in the early 1900s gained independence by riding bicycles which had previously been restricted to men. As one voting rights advocate put it: “I began to feel that myself plus the bicycle equaled myself plus the world, upon whose spinning-wheel we must all learn to ride.” Fast forward to today, and female athletes are once again leading the way. Distance runner Mary Cain shook up the old boys’ establishment last year with her New York Times op-ed: “I Was the Fastest Girl in America, Until I Joined Nike.” The U.S. women’s soccer team isn’t satisfied by dominating world cup play. They have been passionate advocates for equal pay for equal work. 

Minute 2: Who wears short shorts?

As Democrats convene virtually for their convention this week, we are reminded of America’s highest-profile runner of the ‘90s, Bill Clinton. This classic SNL skit chronicles two of the 42nd President’s favorite extracurricular activities -- running and fast food. When he was in the mood for noshing, Mickey D’s was his go-to. And when he wanted to burn off a few McNuggets on the streets of D.C., he liked to do it shorts that were cringey short. This photo tribute to the Runner in Chief’s athletic fashion choices leaves little to the imagination. Well it turns out that President Clinton may have been onto something with his thigh-baring apparel choices. Canadian Running just analyzed results from several recent world record performances and concluded that tiny inseam split shorts are the fastest way to go for men. Adding to the trend, this story hit the wires this week: “The Case for Really Short Running Shorts.” Whatever your political stripes, if you want to take a run on the wild side, these split shorts from Brooks with a mere 3” inseam are among our favorites of the genre. #ShortnessOfBreadth

Minute 3: Running habits

While men are making news this week by showing some skin, two women runners are in the headlines for just the opposite reason. Sister Stephanie Baliga, a Chicago nun, has been logging miles in her full habit recently, as she trains for a treadmill marathon attempt on Sunday. The treadmill sits in the basement of The Mission of Our Lady of the Angels and is the divine tool Baliga wields to raise money for the Mission’s charities. No running novitiate, Baliga was a D-1 collegiate runner at the University of Illinois who has run a 2:53 marathon in the past. Halfway around the globe, Beatie Deutsch is an Israeli mother of 5 who is trying to qualify for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Deutsch is famous in part for running in traditional Orthodox attire including a head scarf, long skirt and shirt sleeves reaching below her elbows. She never trains or races on Saturdays, the Jewish Sabbath. She has hired an attorney to convince Tokyo organizers to avoid scheduling the marathon on a Saturday next year, which they had done for the original 2020 calendar.

Minute 4: Shoes on a budget

As a kid in the ‘80s, we once bought a pair of knock-off Adidas shoes and spent about two hours stripping off the fourth stripe that the wannabe manufacturer had sewn onto the sides of the sneakers. (Apparently even low-cost brands had intellectual property lawyers back then.) In a case of history repeating itself, we are now seeing elite runners sponsored by other brands running in disguised Nike Vaporfly shoes. Their camouflage techniques are not much more sophisticated than ours back in the day. These elite runners are simply using magic markers to blot out the Nike branding and run in the record-breaking shoes instead of the brands they are paid to wear. Business Insider describes the phenomenon in this story: “Nike's controversial Vaporfly shoes make runners faster — so runners sponsored by other brands are blacking them out to wear in secret.” While the Vaporfly is certainly a dramatic stride forward in shoe technology, they also cost $250 on the Nike website and are not designed to last more than 300 km. If that is beyond your budget for everyday trainers, you may want to check out our newest gear guide from shoe dog extraordinaire, Brian Metzler. In his latest installment, Brian explains “How to Find Budget-Minded Running Shoes.” His list includes 12 excellent running shoes for $100 or less. And while you’re in an ecommerce frame of mind, don’t forget about our heather gray Six Minute Mile t-shirts that are flying off the virtual shelves at the new wicked low price of $14.99. Like peas and carrots, these shirts pair well with the shoes on Brian’s list.

Minute 5: Quick Intervals

  • Ernie Andrus is proving that age is just a number the government keeps track of. The 96-year-old is currently in the midst of his second run/walk across the U.S. Despite a diagnosis of congestive heart failure, Andrus is moving forward with his journey to raise money for a WWII memorial. “I always said I’d die with my running shoes on,” Andrus told CBS News.

  • Australian swimmer Chloe McCardel just surpassed the men’s record for number of times swimming across the English Channel. She completed 4 crossings in just 16 days to bring her lifetime total to 35. If she swims across the channel 8 more times, she will tie the women’s record held by Alison Streeter.

  • Barbara Gicquel, a decorated 80-year-old record holder in track cycling, just had her doping suspension upheld by USADA. Gicquel acknowledged that she had been ingesting a banned substance for many years, but she argued that it was part of a menopause medication that had been prescribed by her doctor.

  • Our sister company, MarathonFoto, recently created a new feature where athletes use their email address to search for images of their glory days. They just enhanced that engagement by releasing a batch of finish line videos that are free to download. Runners can now find clips of themselves crossing the line at many big marathons, including NYC 2018 & 2019, Marine Corps 2018 & 2019, Chicago 2018 and Houston 2020. 

Minute 6: Daily Inspiration

Since we’re in a short shorts, throwback kinda mood, our minds wandered back to workout classics like Richard Simmons’ 1988 Sweatin’ to the Oldies video and, of course, the original Jane Fonda workout video from 1982. To go back even a decade further, we love this archival 1972 race film of Steve Prefontaine (below) setting a 3,000 meter American record in all of his shaggy-haired, mustachioed, short shorts glory. We are big fans of both Hollywood Pre movies that came out a year apart in the ‘90s: “Without Limits” and “Prefontaine” although we have a slight preference for the Billy Crudup Without Limits version featuring Donald Sutherland as Nike’s Bill Bowerman.


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