To Athena or Not To Athena….

30 Jul
I am working on my Barb’s Race recap in between eating everything in site and taking naps.  In the meantime I wanted to share a FaceBook post of one my Team Tough Chik teammates, Xanthe.  I found her post to be very interesting and it evolved into an interesting discussion on her FB page.  I asked Xanthe if it was okay to share it here.  She agreed and I wanted to see how the Toughies is cyberworld felt about this topic.  Below is Xanthe’s post, please let us know what you think and stay turned for the Barb’s Race Recap!  XOXO, Shannon

“I recently asked a RD if he would consider adding a Clydesdale/Athena class to his races. Generally, Clydesdales are males over 200 pounds, and Athenas are women over 150, or a variation of those (some are 220 and 165, etc). He replied back that for a number of reasons, he wouldn’t be adding them, but possibly at another point. Out of curiosity more than anything, I asked him his reasons….What he said back seemed intelligent and empathetic.

Regarding the Clydesdale/Athena divisions, I have a few feelings regarding them. First, I think they are a little useless. I played football through college, and when I was at my peak muscularly, I remember my BMI suggested I was obese. I was far from obese, at the time. So, without a height to weight chart, I think it is useless. Even with a height/weight chart it still doesn’t tell you much.

Second, by assigning a definitive weight to a class, it subtly tells healthy women(and men) that we think they weigh too much. My amazing wife is a very good runner, much faster than me, but after 4 babies she is a little heavier than she used to be, like 10-15 pounds. She looks great and runs 8 minute miles. I don’t want her to feel like she doesn’t make the cut because she is not under 150 lbs. We send a lot of very unhealthy signals to men and especially women that I don’t think is a good thing.

Finally, based on a few articles I have read, many women who qualify for the Athena division, opt out of it. Either they don’t want to weigh in, or they don’t want to formally admit that they qualify. I certainly don’t want to auto enroll anyone into a division either. So unless everyone is part of the division, it just doesn’t make sense to have one.

All that being said, we exist for our runners. So I’ll add this question to our post race survey and see what the response looks like. If our runners want it, then we’ll reconsider.

End quote.

I thought about his response while I was running today. I actually LOVE the Athena class, especially when they separate them39 and under/40+ (ages). I find the field to be much smaller, and I rather enjoy being able to take home an award.

I am not fast, I may not ever be.

I do believe that most of the fast women in my age group (non-Athena) who place (win AG awards) are generally slender, lithe, and have lower body fat percentages. My friend Karen is an example of such an athlete.

I’m happy to compete in Athena, especially in triathlons, where a higher weight, no matter if it comes from muscle or fat, can be a disadvantage on the bike leg, especially going uphill. I will take every advantage I can, and every incentive available to keep me motivated.

I love this RD’s thinking, though, and give mad kudos to him.

What are your thoughts about the Clydesdale/Athena classes? Good or bad? Why?

Again, just curious.”


12 Responses to “To Athena or Not To Athena….”

  1. Megan July 30, 2013 at 1:09 pm #

    I compete Athena. I freely admit, by this time next year, I would like to no longer qualify for the division. At 5’3,” 165 pounds is a bit high for me. That said, I take advantage of it. Sometimes it’s a smaller wave, sometimes we’re lumped in with another AG, but it’s fun to see that smaller division and think that I might have a chance at placing. That’s something I will never get in an age group.

  2. charene Whorton July 30, 2013 at 1:11 pm #

    I’ve thought about entering the Athena class before. I’m right at the cutoff and would barely qualify, but I like that it’s a smaller field. Being 5’10” tall and weighing 145, I’m right about where I am supposed to be weight wise, so I don’t consider it to be anything negative to put me in a higher weight class. I’ll never be a fly weight and weight 100 lbs, so why not use it to my advantage? I think I would qualify with my shoes on and all my pre-race hydration.

    I almost entered that class for a race I did last year. Had I been an Athena, I’d have taken a medal.

    So, I don’t think there is anything negative about it. Many of the people are in the middle of weight loss and weighing 150 may been an awesome goal for them, who knows. I do Taekwondo and things are all about weight class, never seem to bother anyone.

    So, I guess it just depends on how you look at it. I could go either way, it doesn’t bother me and I’m fine with it, so if it’s there, I may enter that class next time.

  3. Gigi July 30, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

    I register Athena every time it is offered!!!

  4. tootallfritz July 30, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

    A lot of people are talking about the “Athena” issue right now. I’m one of those people who opt out. Not because I am embarrassed but because I think that some ladies enter that division because it’s generally less competitive (due the number of entrants, not due to the talent pool) and if they want/need that extra boost then I don’t want to discourage that or stand in their way of an award if I’m lucky enough to be in front of them. Whatever gets people moving is good by me.

  5. fun2race July 30, 2013 at 1:28 pm #

    Great Post! I actually have very strong (but conflicting) opinions on the whole athena/clydesdale thing. I really support the concept…I remember when my mom ran her first marathon and weighed close to 200 pounds (she was an ex-body builder). Yes, she was ripped, but that didn’t make her a fast runner, and she often joked, I’d like to see how fast the winners would be if you strapped 40lb (or 50 or 75) weights to them…On the flip side, as someone who will will never again weigh under 150 (I was 148 in hs when I was on the national swim team, working out 5-7hrs/day), I am somewhat offended by the weight of 150 being the cutoff for women. I think this defeats the entire purpose of this division, because just as the race organizer indicated, his wife who weights 150+ does not need a separate category. Yes, a 150 pound womAn compared with 110 is much heavier, but when we talk the general athlete population (not just elites), I think you will find 150 to be on the lower end, especially when things like height get factored in.

  6. Run with Jess (@RUNwJESS) July 30, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

    I actually really like the RD’s response. Many of us know that we will never win AG awards because we’ll never be fast enough. However, the # on the scale is not always the reason. I’m certainly qualify for Athena (and probably always will), but am able to run faster speeds than many women who are significantly smaller in size than me. The two (weight and speed) are don’t always go hand in hand. I say we just all go out and enjoy our RUNS and stop worrying about our RANK.

  7. Tonia July 30, 2013 at 1:56 pm #

    I love when there is an Athena/Clydesdale division offered. I don’t know what the ruling on running races is, but in Triathlon, it’s 165lbs to qualify. If it’s offered, I register for it as I solidly fall above that cutoff. Sometimes, I place, sometimes I get blown out of the water. It depends on who shows up, just like it does in age groups. It is absolutely true that weight/mass are correlated to speed. Many of my friends, are easily 50-60 pounds less that I am, which means if I am to keep up with them I have to overcome the effects of gravity on that extra weight and ultimately have to exert more energy to do so. I don’t see the division as a slight to anyone who qualifies and I definitely don’t think that it tells anyone that they weigh too much. It’s just another way to level the playing field.

  8. July 30, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

    I’m tall…at 5’8 and muscular. Hell my shoe size is an 11.5, so my feet alone weight 20lbs each!!
    I was a swimmer my entire life and grew to be a cyclist, hence I have some meat on my legs. I am not the fastest runner….
    I easily qualify for the Athena division, but I don’t LOOK like I should be there. And I don’t say this to boast, I say it so you understand my reasoning….I look about 15-20lbs lighter than I am….
    Now, since I’m not a runner I do not place very often in my AG. Every now and then I get lucky….if the fast ones are busy 🙂 But if I race Athena, I always place. Something didn’t seem right about that…to me.
    The only reason I’d leave my AG would be to get an award???? And I know a lot of men who do this b/c they are taller and more muscular than their AG counterparts. I’m just not sure thats what Athena/Clyds was suppose to be about….at least not in my mind.
    So I choose to stay in my AG…hopefully gaining enough time where I can…maybe learning to run a bit faster in the process.

  9. Megan July 31, 2013 at 5:28 am #

    I have to admit, these comments make me feel bad about competing as an Athena.

    • toughchik July 31, 2013 at 7:09 am #

      I will never place in my AG and if there was some way to make my field of competition small and give me better chances, I would take it! This wasn’t meant to make anyone feel bad or good about their decision. We all work hard and train, you are racing the same course. Now, if you were a semi-pro who weighed 151 and placed every single race…it might be time to give up Athena. I get passed all the time by women who weigh more than me. Just because you race Athena doesn’t mean you are less of an athlete!

  10. dccog July 31, 2013 at 7:40 am #

    I compete as an Athena – and I love it. I’m never going to place as an age grouper. And I’m most likely never going to place as an Athena. But I love having the scarlett A on my leg that tells the world I’m over 150/165lbs and proud of it.


  1. To Athena or No? | Elbowglitter - August 1, 2013

    […] on the Tough Chik blog, there’s an interesting post on whether or not to register for Athena class (sometimes over […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: