Lanni Marchant says she first took up running because she knew where she stood when she crossed the finish line.
She knew if she’d won, she knew if she hadn’t. No subjective judging.
“It didn’t matter what you looked like crossing the finish line,” Marchant said.
Canada’s fastest female marathoner told the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage this last week when she was invited to the House of Commons to speak on girls and women in sport.
A week later, she was angrily defending her point. It seems more than a few people missed it entirely.
Following Marchant’s testimony, an online running forum lit up with pages of scathing comments, pouncing on her “risqué” running uniforms that have “less material than the average teenage girl’s underwear.”
“My feathers have been ruffled about this, especially since it’s taking away from the important points I did make at the House of Commons,” Marchant said about the forum thread, brought to her attention by a friend. “It’s pretty ugly, there are some pretty dirty things, it’s pretty vulgar, it’s pretty disgusting. And I hope that none of these men and women who are commenting on there have daughters.”
The 32-year-old Marchant spoke while she waited to board a flight to New York where she’s racing in the New York City Marathon on Sunday.
Among the comments on the forum: “On one hand she spoke about how women should be judged on their athletic ability yet on the other hand she is portraying herself in a sexual manner. Is she not talking out of both sides of her mouth now?”
Said another: “Don’t dress like you are going to the beach then complain that you are have been objectified!!”
And another: “If you don’t want me to look at your T&A then don’t put it out on display.”
Marchant, who’s also a practising criminal lawyer, addressed the committee in Ottawa about tough qualifying standards and funding criteria as well. But it was her comments about female athletes and appearance that her critics honed in on. They even picked her apart for a pair of Instagram photos of herself in a cocktail dress.
“I really hope these people posting don’t have daughters that play indoor volleyball or are on a swim team. And I hope your daughters don’t come home in tears [from hurtful comments],” Marchant said. “What are you going to say? Well, you shouldn’t have been swimming in that bathing suit? You shouldn’t be wearing volleyball shorts? When did a sports bra and shorts become sexual? That’s the issue.
“You never blame the rape victim for wearing a short dress to the bar, why blame the athlete for saying, ‘Hey guys, I’m an athlete.’ ‘Well you’re wearing a sports bra and shorts so we really can’t take you seriously as an athlete.’” Marchant is making her New York City Marathon debut after turning down the invitation a couple of times in the past. In previous years, she’d been chasing qualifying standards for various events, and so scheduled her racing accordingly.
“Now I want to run marathons and other races that I want to run for me,” Marchant said. “I felt that if New York kept asking and I kept saying no, eventually they’d stop asking. And I wanted to make sure I got to do it and it fit really well this year, and it’s been a bucket list one that I always wanted to do.”
Marchant joined the chorus of runners angry over Athletics Canada’s tough marathon standards for 2017. She must run 2 hours 29 minutes 50 seconds to earn a spot on the world championship team. Her Canadian record, set in 2013, is 2:27:58.
“If I don’t get [the standard] in New York, then I have to do a spring marathon and then even if get it, I would have to line up in August and race another marathon,” she said. “It just shows there’s no understanding of how we train and compete in marathons. So I’m not going to chase it.”
She’s also lost her carding status, the $1,500 monthly stipend she received from Sport Canada. As an athlete over 30, she was required to finish in the top 15 in the 10,000 metres at the Rio Olympics. She finished 25th and then raced to a 24th-place finish in the marathon just two days later, becoming the first Canadian in history to complete the gruelling Olympic double.
She could appeal the carding decision. “I haven’t decided what I’ll do. I just want to get through New York first,” she said.
But if she did appeal, she’d have to pick an athlete who was selected for carding and argue why she’s more deserving than them.
“It’s a pretty brutal system,” she said.
Sunday’s marathon field includes 19 Olympians.
Defending champion Mary Keitany of Kenya headlines the women’s field. With a blistering personal best of 2:18.37, Keitany is the second-fastest woman in history behind Britain’s Paula Radcliffe.Report Typo/Error