Since 1994, every summer in the UK thousands of women and girls take part in 5 km fun runs on behalf of Cancer Research UK. Over £457 million has been raised by six million participants during the Race for Life. I’ve taken part in the past, as have many of my friends, some of whom are doing so again this year. In my experience, it’s a wonderful event, both fun and heartbreaking. Fun because there’s an excitement in the air – I think for many of the participants, Race for Life is their first experience of running any kind of distance at all – and because so many women are in fancy dress or running with their friends. It’s heartbreaking though for the reasons these women are running. Along with your race number, you are also given a card to pin to your back explaining why you’re running – or rather, who for. I can remember when I took part, seeing a little girl with a long list of names on her back. It seemed too long a list for someone so young and as well as making me feel tearful, gave me extra determination to run the race.
In their adverts for the Race for Life, Cancer Research UK say “It’s all of us versus cancer.” So why does their biggest fundraising event exclude men and boys? On their website, Cancer Research UK states that their research shows that a “significant number of our Race for Life supporters would strongly prefer to keep it a female-only event as it is a unique opportunity for women to come together in a non-competitive environment within an atmosphere of ‘sisterhood’.” They have in the past held male-only 5 km events but there was “insufficient interest” from men and so the Run for Moore event series was cancelled.
I’ve always thought it strange that Cancer Research should emphasise “It’s all of us versus cancer” and then hold women-only events, however I can attest that the “atmosphere of sisterhood” is real. Longer distance events are available for both men and women, and Cancer Research UK is also working on allowing boys and girls to host events in their schools for any distance.
Race for Life certainly has a fantastic and unique atmosphere, and is one of the biggest fundraising event series in the UK. I understand the organisers’ reasons for keeping it women only and appreciate their efforts to create other events to allow everyone the opportunity to fund raise. It seems almost a shame that its special atmosphere can only be preserved by not allowing men and boys to participate.
Girl Museum Inc.