The Clydesdale and Athena divisions should be added to OCR and running events. There – I said it. Burn me at the stake, throw tomatoes or emphatically disagree if you’d like. But before you do, at least finish the article. Deal?
What are the Clydesdale and Athena divisions? Both divisions are classifications based on weight, rather than the standard age group. The Clydesdale division is typically males over 220 pounds while the Athena division is women over 165. Who cares, right? It doesn’t affect the majority of people today, right? Before you brush off the logistics already, let’s look at other sporting events for a moment.
Would the world’s greatest boxers still be the greatest if no weight classes existed? Would Floyd Mayweather be able to beat Evander Holyfield in his prime? Could Manny Pacquiao have withstood punches from Mike Tyson? We will never know because it would be “unfair” to place them together in a ring.
Would Olympic weightlifting results differ if they didn’t have Bantamweight, Lightweight, Heavyweight and Super Heavyweight divisions? Chances are – the super heavyweights would take gold, silver and bronze every single time.
Would the MMA be the same if Conor McGregor fought heavyweights like Fedor Emelianenko, Junior dos Santos, or Andrei Arlovski? We will never know – they will never fight.
The majority of individual sports can be broken down into two major categories – skill vs speed/strength. Size or weight is less of an issue in skate boarding, tennis, golf, or surfing because you either have the skill at these sports or you don’t. Not every person has the balance to surf or hand-eye coordination for tennis. However, Boxing, MMA, Weightlifting, Power lifting, and all forms of martial arts are restricted by weight class. Not to say that skill or talent isn’t involved, but a 130 pound wrestler is far less likely to win against a 250 pound heavyweight.
What makes running different? What makes OCR different? What makes Triathlons different? That, my friend, is the question. Why are they different? The answer is- They aren’t. It’s just that nobody has challenged the norm. Running isn’t split by weight because runners are almost exclusively less than 200 pounds. Competitive runners are ALL under 200. Why change now? I’d ask the opposite, why not? How many people started their journey as a runner in the Clydesdale or Athena division? Many people who were overweight to start likely fell in that category. However – some people are just larger athletes, regardless of effort or training. Wouldn’t it be great to have the option to compete against other larger athletes who are of similar build?
If you want to be a nurse, do you pursue it? If you love painting, do you paint? If your passion is music, do you practice singing, playing an instrument or composing music? Fitness has become a passion of mine and I have been sharing the knowledge I’ve learned from personal experience ever since. I’m pursuing that passion with every run; every weight lifted; every training session. Why should that passion be thwarted because I’m 6’5” – 260 pounds running against 160-pound individuals? Regardless of your opinion, the truth is a larger framed individual will never be competitive in running against the “typical runner”. The body supplies oxygen and energy to working muscles, so the lighter the load, the better. If you took two runners, identical in all physical abilities, different only in their weight, odds are that the lighter runner would finish with a faster time than the heavier runner. Some might say “then lose the weight and quit bitching”. While I agree to an extent, and I will never stop training to be better, most Clydesdales and Athenas will ALWAYS be larger regardless of effort toward losing weight. Should we be punished because our genetics have pushed us out of the “fit” category in running?
I’ll leave this with a final thought…
At 6’5” – 260lbs, I have more mass to hold up on monkey bars, more mass to swing across rigs, and a more difficult time trudging up hills than Ryan Atkins. Yes– he trains his arse off – but put the same training into someone 230 pounds and in the same shape as Atkins. Who wins? Atkins still wins all day and twice on Sunday. Why are bigger males still chasing Jonathon Albon or Ryan Atkins and females chasing Lindsey Webster or Alexandra Walker for a medal when we wouldn’t be placed in the same boxing ring for the title match?
The opportunity to challenge and compete against other athletes of similar build is long overdue. These divisions aren’t about me, my family, friends or acquaintances to acquire more medals or achievements for “mediocrity”, as most would consider it. This isn’t about one man’s journey to “win events” and be famous. It is to change society’s view regarding the larger athlete while being the motivation for acceptance and change. Regardless if my fitness journey takes me below 220 pounds or not – I’m a f&%king Clydesdale and proud of it. It’s time to remove the stigma that has been placed on these weight classes over the years and be proud to be a larger athlete. It’s time for the Clydesdale and Athena divisions to be represented in the OCR and running world.
Photo Credit: Starr Mulvihill, Jason Akers and Billy Howard – Single Stone Studios Photography