This weekend sees the running of an inaugural Surf Coast Century, another 100km event that gets added to our list of scenic races here in Australia. Run along similar coastline to the Great Ocean Walk, the views are stunning and the line-up of contenders up front is pretty strong with the likes of Rowan Walker (Australian marathon champ 2:18), Andrew Tuckey (Australian Mountain running rep) and Jonathan Worswick (all round awesome trail runner) among some of the top guns competing for the winners purse.
The other news to hit this race is that a group of 14-16yr old girls from Geelong High School are entered into the race and already debate is raging on the interwebs as to whether these girls should be allowed to race. It’s certainly an interesting move from the race directors to allow these girls to enter. The argument for suggests that in a world where TVs and video games keep children indoors, shouldn’t we be encouraging them to get outside and be part of the sport we love? The other side of the coin is that anything involving under 18s in an official organised event is just too great a risk given the unknowns of letting under 18s enter events that require a high degree of training and when so much is unknown about your body and how it will respond.
It’s a delicate situation, and what we want to do here is ensure that we’re focused on the right issues. Members of Ultra168 have our own personal opinions on the matter, but our job is to create a forum for open discussion. There are countless things to talk about here, most of which are being discussed on Facebook, so I want to keep this simple. This is not about saying that these girls can’t run 100kms and indeed do this in their own time. Indeed, we’re sure many of them are fitter than some of the other entrants. We also believe that yes, some of them could and will easily complete the course. However, this is not a debate as to whether they can do it, this is a debate as to whether they should be allowed to enter into a race that has rules, regulations and indeed legalities around insurance of the girls and also the overall responsibility that the race director has for their safety and welfare.
We understand that the race organisers are taking many precautions to ensure that everything is looked after for them e.g. medical checks at each checkpoint, the girls are pretty much walking the entire way. We checked in with them to understand their rationale, “Rapid Ascent’s (the race organiser of the Surf Coast Century) policy has always been to have no minimum age for competitors competing in any of our events. This was borne out of the fact that when I (John Jacoby) entered my first kayak race, aged 15 I was not allowed to enter. So I did what any determined kid would do, I went paddled the race unofficially anyway.
“We believe that people should not be restricted from tackling an objective simply because of their age and that they should be given the opportunity to test themselves and give it a go in a safe, controlled environment.
“Surf Coast Century safeguards include mobile medical teams monitoring competitors at each CP, a course that allows for easy access to competitors along its entire length, mobile phone reception along the entire course, considerable race food and hydration provided free of charge around the course, supervision by race officials and support crews (plus parents), cut offs to limit those who are struggling to stop them before they bonk, and in this case – having an experienced adult teacher and their own peers with them every step of the way. We believe these measures make it safer to test yourself in an event environment than by yourself.”
No matter what your viewpoint is and despite all the questions of whether they are too young, the insurance, care of duty, setting precedents, getting kids out and about and into trail running etc… there is just one question we should all ask ourselves to understand whether we feel this is right or wrong:
“If this was your race, is allowing these girls to race a risk that you would take?”