Athenas and Clydesdales

Geared up for a run. April 2013.

Geared up for a run. April 2013.

In competitive running events—some, not all—you can register in Athena and Clydesdale categories.

Athena? Clydesdale? Wha?

The parameters of the categories vary a bit, depending upon the race. To qualify as an Athena, female runners must weigh at least 140 or 150 pounds. Typically, Clydesdale males weigh in at or over 200 pounds.

The thinking? Creating these categories levels the competition for heavier humans; after all, they shouldn’t have to vie against the lean-and-mean.

Yet, in my book, 140- or 150-pound women and 200-pound men don’t qualify as big folk. Implying that people weighing these amounts or more are overweight insults them—and may not actually prove true.

And regardless: Fitness comes in all sizes.

In addition, these categories beg a fairness question: Would registering as Athenas or Clydesdales give athletes with above-average height and muscle mass—people in better shape than, say, lighter bodies with a higher body-fat percentage or less cardiovascular conditioning—an advantage?

Or would athletes never deign to register in these categories? And, if the latter—that athletes consider the designations beneath them—does it make the classifications even more insulting?

I’ve qualified for Athena at points in my running career. Yet I’ve never signed up in the category—and I’ve never looked to see whether a race offered it.

However, I don’t vie for medals: I compete against my last race time. (I have other goals to hit.) Someone who truly competes may want every advantage she can get.

What do you think?