exciting, informative, snarky, and very likely fabricated tales of life as an american expat in london

always chasing men

by Jen at 8:49 am on 27.09.2011 | 1 Comment
filed under: like a fish needs a bicycle, rant and rage, this sporting life

it’s not that difficult to rile me up pre-coffee in the mornings, but few things have had me seeing red like the article i read this morning, where the IAAF (the governing athletics body) have decided to completely strip the current women’s world marathon record holder of her achievement. that’s right: back in 2003, Paula Radcliffe ran the London marathon faster than any female has ever run 26.2 miles… but that’s no longer considered the world record.

why, you ask? what could have possibly come to light to require such a drastic move? what did Paula Radcliffe do? what rule could she have breached?

well, none. it’s just that the IAAF have decided, with the benefit of eight years of hindsight, that it was too easy for her – because it was a mixed race, you see, and she *got to run behind a man*. that was clearly an unfair advantage. and so they’ve taken that record away.

“you know that race you ran 8 years ago, where *you ran faster than any other woman in the world*? that race that has defined your career and your international standing? … PSYCH! not a world record! ha ha!” -IAAF

also: if you want to set a world record and you’re a woman? from now on, you’d better find an all women’s race to do it in, because otherwise it doesn’t count. so New York, Boston, London, Chicago, Berlin marathons? no need to do your best there anymore, ladies. apparently the IAAF think you just breeze along to the finish line… because obviously the men will have already done all the hard work of pacing the race.

(but wait: the men in a race have male pacers, don’t they? why yes – yes, they do. but for a woman to have a male pacer is unfair.

huh??!!?)

i suppose i shouldn’t be surprised by this unbelievably transparent bid to completely discredit women’s achievements out of hand. after all, this is *what the patriarchy does*.

the other day, the king of saudi arabia decided to allow women saudis to vote (four years from now). how very fucking beneficent of him, eh? women all over social media were hailing this as some great achievement. but let’s be clear: it’s not. what it is, is a male dictator who has decided to let women be just a millimetre less oppressed than they were yesterday.

this is what the patriarchy does. it sets the rules. it changes them at whim. it giveth… and then it taketh away. it is always reminding us who’s really in control. it keeps women off balance, and hungry, and grateful for every crumb they are thrown. after all, 2012 will be only the 8th time women have even been allowed to race the olympic marathon! shouldn’t we still pleased as punch about that?

no. no i’m bloody well not. i’m tired of having to fight tooth and nail to simply be *less oppressed*, and i’m tired of the two-steps-forward-one-step-back dance that’s designed to serve as a constant reminder that no matter how far we advance, we are still, and will always be, behind. it is a methodical form of continual humiliation to remind us that we still have to have our rights and achievements accredited by men in order for them to truly count.

so even if you run the fastest marathon in the world, it means nothing unless *they* decide it means something. the message here, ladies: as in the rest of life, no matter how hard you work, no matter how hard you fight, you’ll always just be seen to be chasing a man. and don’t you dare forget it.

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my boyz

by Jen at 3:50 am on 28.05.2011Comments Off
filed under: this sporting life

so while i’ve been here in Vancouver, it’s been all hockey, all the time. i’ve been supporting the Bruins (obvs) in the eastern conference playoffs, but also supporting the Canucks in the western conference.

and for the two months i’ve been here, it’s been lots of fun to participate in the playoff fervour that’s swept this city. everywhere you look, there’s banners exhorting the team to “go Canucks go!” and people decked out in the team kit. the whole metropolis is swathed in blue and white. watching the Canucks games has given me something to look forward to at a time when i’ve been lonely and trying to pinch pennies – every few games i know i can head to the pub, have a few beers, interact with the fans, and enjoy myself.

but lest there be any doubt, i bleed boston blood. even though it’s been quite difficult to follow them over the last eight years from afar (and not much noteworthy to follow), i’ve never wavered in my love for my hometown team. and so it was that i was in the pub this evening, convincing the Vancouverites to root for Boston against Tampa Bay. and it was lovely that when Boston finally made it through to the finals, there was genuine congratulations extended to me from the punters.

because from here on out, it’s about to get very lonely indeed. i am in enemy territory now. all the lighthearted fun and games is over – the Bruins haven’t won a Stanley Cup since the year i was born, and haven’t even been to the finals in 21 years. on the Canucks side, they haven’t won a cup in the 40 year history of the team.

so it’s high stakes, and my official jersey is at home in London (poor planning on my part!) which means the first order of business tomorrow is buying myself a big ol’ Bruins shirt, to wear with pride when the finals begin.

c’mon Bruins! don’t let me down boyz! i’m counting on you.

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world cup and world travels

by Jen at 10:03 pm on 22.06.2010 | 3 Comments
filed under: photo, this sporting life, travelology

in spite of the radio silence, i’ve got a lot to write about… but as many of you non-Americans will know, about 2 weeks ago the world cup got underway.

like lots of american kids, i played soccer for several years. and like a lot of american kids, promptly forgot all about most anything soccer-related once i left high school until the spectacular women’s world cup victory in 1999. it was an electrifying and unifying event (i recall people setting up televisions on the sidewalk and watching with all their neighbours) – but that was largely seen as an anomaly. then a few years later, when the mls began to get some attention, my friends and i became enamoured of the new england revolution team, and followed their season all the way to the finals at gillette stadium… where we lost.

but it was only natural then, that when i first moved to the uk, i assumed that i would become immersed and fully fluent in the football culture – after all, i’m a sports fan, i’m a fan of fit men with nice legs, and i understand the basics of the game. i even decided in advance that i would support arsenal as my favoured team. i was prepared to become a full-on footy lover.

imagine my disappointment when i arrived to discover that the english premiership league television rights were exclusively owned by the skysports cable channel – a premium pay channel. unfortunately i didn’t control the cable in my flat (my landlady had the contract in her name) and as a premium channel, it would have been prohibitively expensive even if i did. all my nascent football passions fizzled. without a means to watch regularly, i never really had much opportunity to follow the season fortunes, never really learned who all the teams were, and in general, never really had a chance to get caught up in it the way i do with my other beloved sports.

but the world cup… well, the world cup is different. as an american, i’d had no awareness of it before living in europe. but during the last world cup in 2006, we were travelling through south east asia, watching games with all the other backpackers on outdoor screens in vietnam, gathered in ramshackle cafes in laos, and boozing in backwater bars in cambodia. the fervor and intensity with which both westerners and easterners alike congregated and cheered their teams was amazing to experience. i was hooked. in hindsight, with my love of giant multinational sporting events, and my love of the underdog, it was a natural fit.

so i’ve been a little distracted lately. i’ve been supporting the u.s. team (natch), the south african host team (obvs), and pretty much any underdog team i can find (go cameroon! go honduras! go north korea!) i’ve been calculating probable group winners and twittering about blown ref calls. when even jonno is bored by the less-than-scintillating matchup of slovakia v. paraguay, i’ve been glued to the screen. i’ve got the fever, and if the u.s. manage to win tomorrow (please god let them win tomorrow!) it is unlikely to abate any time in the next few weeks.

in the meantime however, i’ve edited my pictures from our recent holidays in the scottish highlands and venice/croatia. both were incredibly beautiful (why did no one tell me how stunning scotland was!!?) and we were fortunate enough to have fantastic weather for both.

a few favourites below. more of scotland here and venice/croatia here.

go team u.s.a.!!

eilean donan castle

isle of skye

old man rock

lake

venice

venice

venice

rabac

unije

unije

zadar

bride and speedo guy

dubrovnik

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running against myself

by Jen at 1:13 pm on 28.05.2010 | 5 Comments
filed under: run for the ellies, this sporting life

i did it!

my edinburgh marathon official time was 4 hours, 33 minutes, 34 seconds – my second best time.

it was hot (25C and blazing sun! just killer, really) and painful – my hip started hurting at 2 miles in, and i thought for sure i would never make it to the end. when you’re doubting yourself, 20 minutes into a race, it doesn’t bode well – my only goal was to finish.

so let’s just say my use of painkillers would not win any medical seals of approval – i took 3 ibuprofen before the start, 1 dicloflex at 10 miles, 4 more ibuprofen at like 15 miles, and 2 cocodamol at 20 miles. i’ve probably put a hole in my stomach and permanently shrivelled my liver.

i drank and drank and drank. the punishing sun beat down on my face. i forced down nasty energy gels. i passed some runners, and was passed by others. at mile sixteen, there was a course dogleg – seeing the advanced runners already heading toward the end, knowing you still have two and a half hours to go, was incredibly disspiriting.

but somehow, (perhaps because i was concerntrating so hard on putting one foot in front of another) it passed pretty quickly, and before i knew it, i was at the 18 mile mark. that’s when i knew that i would finish for sure, and my goal became to finish without walking.

at some point, i looked at my watch and realised that actually, i was doing an okay time, and that perhaps there was even a chance of finishing strong.

i cranked up the music in my ears, put my head down, and started chugging. ” i will not walk, i will not walk, i will not walk”.

19 miles, 20, 22.

that’s when it got really hard. my hips were aching like rusty ball sockets, and my thighs began to burn with the fire of built up lactic acid. my face was coated with a layer of salt that got into the cracks of my sunburnt lips. my legs seemed to be pulled down by a separate force of gravity.

the 24 mile marker came into view and i pumped my fist in the air with a loud, “yeah!!”, startling nearby runners. i turned up the music even more and began singing aloud.

i wanted so very badly to stop. i began to think about all the reasons i was so desperate to run another marathon – the challenge, the accomplishment, the cause. the 25 mile marker crept up like molasses on a cold day in february. “i will not walk.” i sang even louder to drown out the insistent complaints from my quads, my legs crying out for mercy.

finally, the finish was visible and i let the emotion of the moment carry me across the line. nearly three years since my last marathon, 10 years since my first, i finished marathon #4.

and i was reminded why i do this, why i spent 3 years trying to do this – because each and every time i get beyond the limitations of my fears and doubts and exhaustion, whether that’s at mile 6 or mile 26, it feels like a triumph. there are millions of runners faster and stronger than i – but i can guarantee you, none of them ever have, or ever will, feel better crossing the finish line.

it’s a truth of all runnners: even if you are racing against others, you are first and foremost running against yourself. it is *you* that you have to face every time you lace up your running shoes, and *you* that will always be your biggest supporter. it is *you* who sets your own goals, and *you* that lives up to them.

a huge thank you to everyone who donated to the elephant nature foundation – your money means so much to the rescued elephants, and a tremendous amount to me as well. a massive shout out to my friend fiona, who kindly massaged me post-race.

several days later i’m already pondering what’s next on the agenda. my cousin and her husband (who do ironman triathalons), have been inspiring me to reach for a new goal, and i’ve just got the book “born to run”, so who knows… i have this idea for running 1000 miles in 2010. already got 400 under my belt, so we’ll see.

in the meantime, this was my 25 mile song – it worked wonders to lift my feet and my spirits through that last unending 1.2 miles.

my hero – foo fighters

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lucky number 9336!

by Jen at 12:22 pm on 15.05.2010 | 1 Comment
filed under: photo, run for the ellies, this sporting life

i got my race number yesterday!

runningnumber

so far i’ve been trying not to talk a lot about my training, for fear of jinxing it. and things were going pretty swell until my 18 mile run – since then my hips have been complaining loudly. however i managed my 20 miler, and have been trying to mostly rest and do physio exercises, in the hopes of making through this marathon with my legs still attached.

i only know that one way or another, i will complete it. painfully, slowly, or otherwise, i will get to the finish line. i’ve never dropped out of a marathon yet, and i don’t intend to start now.

so it seems like as good a time as any to remind y’all that i’m trying to raise a few bucks for one of my favourite causes – the elephant nature foundation. you can read my lyrical waxing about it here and here, but suffice to say it’s an amazing place doing amazing work. can you spare a bit to sponsor me? it would do so much good towards saving an abused elephant.

big thanks for all those who’ve donated so far – your support means a lot to me and to the ellies )

elephantschilling

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feel it quake with the joy resounding

by Jen at 6:37 pm on 1.04.2010Comments Off
filed under: photo, this sporting life

sorry for the silence of late. between my marathon training and crazy workdays and continued insomnia, i feel as though my days are all blending into an unending haze of work/run/eat/lie awake all night.

i’ve had posts to write, but no time or energy to spare.

but in the meantime, i leave you with this:


run1

the lightning storm and downpour of earlier today breaks, the clouds clear, and i head out for a run. the brisk air cools my face and neck as i turn towards the common. i pass the dripping forsythia newly burst in bloom, the cloying scent undercut by the fresh undertones of rain. there is new budding greenery suddenly everywhere, crowding in from all sides, bright against the golden afternoon dappled amber rays and the washed blue sky. this song is playing and the soles of my shoes seem to be filled with helium, rising, rising, rising of their own accord. my heart and lungs like to burst, my legs burn with speed, and yet i can’t slow down. it is impossible for me to not run faster and faster, the joy of presence in my body bubbling up at the back of my throat, exploding into my brain. it’s spring and i am more alive than i have felt in months and every cell in my being tingles with the overwhelming effervescence of pure effusive adrenaline.

run2

Now we’re all allowed to breathe
Walls dissolve
With the hunger and the greed
Move your body
You’ve got all you need
And your arms in the air stir a sea of stars
And oh here it comes and it’s not so far

All light beings
Come on now make haste
Clap your hands
If you think you’re in the right place
Thunder all surrounding
Aw feel it quake with the joy resounding
Palm to the palm you can feel it pounding
Never give it up you can feel it mounting
Oh its gonna drop gonna fill your cup and
Oh its gonna drop gonna fill your cup

the age of miracles

indeed.

golden age – tv on the radio

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most of all, i feel happy

by Jen at 8:22 pm on 24.03.2010Comments Off
filed under: this sporting life

sometimes it’s difficult to explain why i run. and yet a 12 year old has managed to put into words what i so often can’t:

Why I Like Running
When I step outside, I go to the trail; and I start running down it, arms pumping, legs moving, and heart beating fast.

With speed, the wind rushes through my hair as if it is going to miss a train. With each step I take, I pack the dirt deeper into the earth. I see birds in the sky, flying. The bright sun shines, glistening on my cheeks, and I feel the warmth. I see little creatures and animals creeping around in the woods, for I blink quickly, not wanting to miss anything. Intensifying, the enjoyment level continues to rise, and I love running that much more.

I feel free, and no one can come and get me. Most of all, I feel happy, and at peace. I am in a place of independence because I am depending upon myself to push through and not stop until I know my goals are fulfilled. Doing, I know what needs to be accomplished at that point in time.

Just like when running, I do not stop, which is what I intend to do in life. When I start something, I will finish it.

Running gives me a sense of everything in sight; opening my eyes to new things and experiences. That is why I run, and that is why I love it.

Competition
I run to compete. Against others yes, but that’s really not who and what I run for. I truly run for myself.

I want to see if I’m up for the challenge. Sweating, I run with focus and purpose. I tell myself to not stop running no matter how bad I feel. Running is more mental then it is actually physical, and if I constantly keep feeding my brain with positive thoughts, I know I will be okay. I think of nothing but running and what is going on second by second; moment by moment. Until I collapse, I will not stop.

Pushing, every fiber of my being works together to not give up. Questioning, if I will make it. However, quickly throwing that idea out of the window and watching it smash to the ground. Knowing, I do what needs to be done, and I won’t let any distractions get in my way.

Competing, I run against me, myself, and I. My motivation keeps me going, and I won’t be a quitter. I enjoy testing my abilities of how well I can perform, and I love a good challenge.

Marathon
Ever since my dad ran in the Steamtown Marathon, I have dreamed to do the same. He is the one who inspired me to start running in the first place, and he is the one who is inspiring me to run a marathon when I get older. I don’t know how hard it will actually be, but I assume it will be difficult. However, I still plan to do it. Could it be drive, that pushes me on to run a marathon? Is it a fire burning inside of me that wants to be fulfilled? I do not know until I try it, which is why I want to.

Just thinking about it, my mind races. Wondering, my mind searches for answers. Would I complete it? When would I run it? I am curious, and I want to run it so badly. I want to feel a sense of accomplishment and achievement.

Running, step by step my feet would move forward. Through all 26.2 miles I will run through the grueling pain and all that follows. Then, I will cross the line ending in a speeding finish. And then, my urging aspiration will finally be fulfilled at last.

The Last Stretch
All of a sudden, with the last few yards, and the finish line in site, I get this bolt of energy, just like lightning striking. The adrenaline is pumping in my veins and throughout my entire body.

I run straight ahead, feet kicking up dirt behind me, legs racing at the speed of light. I feel unstoppable, and nothing and no one can slow me down. Whistling, the wind rushes in my face.

Suddenly, I realize that I am almost there, almost at the finish line. Burning, my legs hurt like crazy and they just want to stop running. But for some reason, I don’t stop. Persevering, I cross that finish line.

Once it is all done and over, I feel my heart pounding, knees shaking, and body aching. So much energy just sucked right out of me like a drink through a straw.

However, there is something inside of me that can’t wait till the next day, to do it all over again. Something inside of me that keeps pushing on. Something inside of me, that keeps on running.

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running for the ellies

by Jen at 8:24 pm on 27.02.2010 | 1 Comment
filed under: photo, run for the ellies, this sporting life

so they say the third time is the charm.

this is the third time i’m entered to run the edinburgh marathon, taking place on 23rd may. twice previously, i became injured and had to withdraw – last year, just a few days before the race.

however with the help of some physiotherapy and my natural stubborn streak, i am running again, and determined to complete my fourth marathon.

and as i’m going through all the trouble, i thought i’d try to fundraise some money for an organisation very near and dear to my heart: the elephant nature foundation.

elephantschilling

those who know me well, know just how strongly i feel about the work that the elephant nature foundation does. Lek and and her team work tirelessly to save the asian elephant, rescuing one ellie at a time. Lek is also a brave and outspoken advocate of eliminating traditional abusive training methods.

having seen first hand the dedication work of Lek and her team, and having experienced the beauty of an “elephant haven” where ellies can spend their days just being the gorgeous creatures they are, i cannot recommend this organisation highly enough.

elephantslekandellie2

lek and the elephant nature park have been recognised for their work by the humane society of the united states, national geographic, and time magazine.

but don’t just take my word for it – read more about Lek and her respected foundation in the news here. watch videos of the ellies they have rescued here.

a hundred years ago, there were 100,000 elephant in Thailand. today there are fewer than 4,000 Thai elephants left.

if you haven’t already read about our experience at the elephant nature park, you can do so here, and see more pics here.

elephantsbathingjenandjonno

they are magnificent, sentient beings, and lek’s commitment and drive are an inspiration to me. if she can dedicate her life to saving the ellies, in the face of incredible odds, then i can certainly try to run a few hours and raise a few bob to do my part.

a world without these amazing creatures is not a world i want to live in. please consider sponsoring me at my justgiving page.

thanks in advance.

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there’s nothing i can do to make this easier for you

by Jen at 10:12 pm on 19.10.2009 | 1 Comment
filed under: mutterings and musings, this sporting life

i am not a patient person.

in fact, the imprecision of that statement irritates me – i am a *highly impatient* person. i like to joke amongst my friends that i have the patience of a fruit fly. i want results now, dammit – although if i’m honest, i’d prefer them yesterday.

and so back in march, i started to write a post that surprised me – i’d been doing yoga for a whole year. an entire year of at least 3x a week. a full year of practicing a form of quietude and discipline and patience. and i loved it. i know! i could hardly believe it myself. i felt centred and supple. balanced.

and then i got injured. the hip problems that forced me to drop out of my marathon forced me to give up yoga as well. difficult to do pigeon pose when even sitting on the sofa hurt. i did absolutely no exercise for five months, waiting for the deep pain in my hip to ease, even a little. i could practically feel my tendons shortening, my muscles contracting, as day after day i could do nothing to prevent it.

finally last month, i started beginning to work out again. the hip is still not great, but i couldn’t sit still any more. and i started trying to get back into my yoga.

i feel as weak as a newborn baby and i can barely touch my toes, let alone get chin-to-shin in janu sirsasana the way i used to. it’s so frustrating – to have to start all over again. to have to begin the practice of slowly stretching into the poses over time, building my strength back up for holding poses, ground myself through the shaking and wobbles, reconnect with my centre of gravity and stability.

because more than physical strength or flexibility, that’s what yoga is about. taking time to breathe, balance, centre. all the things i’m not naturally good at.

there’s a saying that’s continually repeated throughout classes: wherever you are today is exactly where you need to be. so here’s where i am, re-learning the lessons, reconnecting with my foundations. rediscovering patience.

please be patient with me – wilco

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i stay game till sun’ll shake my shoulders, i stay game, stay game

by Jen at 4:19 pm on 10.10.2009 | 1 Comment
filed under: this sporting life

being an expat really tests your loyalties.

so you think you’re a baseball fan? have you spent hundreds of dollars just to be able to watch your team play… not in person, mind, or even on television, but on a tiny window of the internet? have you ever turned down social engagements, and risked alienating countrymen who don’t understand american sports, to sit at home hunched over the computer urging your team on from thousands of miles away? after a big game, have you ever experienced the unique loneliness of having *absolutely no one* to share your joy or despair with? have you ever come home from a long day at work, gone to bed ridiculously early, then woken up at 2am to spend 3 hours in the dark breathlessly watching your team win or lose, only to then try to catch one last precious hour of sleep before the alarm goes off in the morning, drag yourself through the day, and repeat that routine for the next several weeks?

until you have, you can’t really appreciate the unique hell that is the life of an expat sports fan – particularly during the playoffs. i’ve done this routine for a few seasons now – i have the redbull, i have the jersey – but somehow it never gets easier.

my beloved red sox are facing off against the los angeles angels of anaheim (otherwise known as the “we-can’t-figure-out-where-we-want-to-be-from angels”) in the american league division series. unfortunately they’re already down 2-0 in the best of five series, so have a big challenge ahead.

in other words, they *need* my support. punking out because i’m “too tired” is not an option.

but at 2am, peeling my lids open with my fingers, yawning so hard my eyes water, and trying to stay quiet so as not to disturb those sleeping next to me… it’s either a test of faith, or a measure of stupidity. when every fibre of your being is crying out desperately for sleep, you have to wonder: just how much do i love this team anyway?

lucky for me, the answer is “a helluva lot”. cause there’s no other reason behind the irrational hell that i put myself through this time of the year. and of course, better to be in the playoffs than not!

at least, that’s what i tell myself at two in the morning.

strictly game – harlem shakes

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the zen of running

by Jen at 6:57 pm on 29.09.2009 | 1 Comment
filed under: classic, photo, this sporting life

i am present present present only in this moment, this moment, this moment – this is the rhythm my feet sing out as they hit the ground, over and over. my legs, too short to stride, churn a simple beat. man has been running since the beginning of his existence, and i now tattoo the earth in the same elemental way. lungs fill and empty, synapses fire billions of small miracles as the trees rush past me. the change of season announces itself – there are chestnuts now spilling over in abundance as the leaves begin the cycle of decay, the dry burnt tang of them hanging in the air. it gets darker now, and the moon is a waxen balloon. waxing moon. waning trees. my body knows how to do this instinctively, no learning necessary, just the communication reflex travelling along nerves and sinew and muscle, guided by the brain stem. my thoughts get out of the way, and let the feet do their thing. i do not try to run, i simply do. and even as i subconsciously note the arrival of autumn, and the beginnings of death all around, my body has never been more alive and my awareness in each new second is only this:

i am present present present in this moment, this moment, this moment.

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falling foul of the line

by Jen at 12:46 pm on 20.08.2009 | 8 Comments
filed under: rant and rage, this sporting life

i watched caster semenya blow away the competition in the 800 metre world championships last night.

and then i watched the race commentators and the iaaf blow her personal dignity out of the water.

since bursting onto the scene last month, there has apparently been quiet speculation about semenya’s gender.  last night that quiet speculation became widespread international rumourmongering that semenya was one of a growing number of known intersex or transgendered atheletes.

gender verification has been carried out in international sport since the 1930s.  from its first crude beginnings, it has, fortunately become much more sophisticated (by comparison) – taking into account physiology, genetics, hormones and psychology.  it has also become much more socially and politically sensitive – transgendered individuals are allowed to compete in their newly-identified gender after a period of two years, and intersex individuals are also allowed to compete.

what hasn’t apparently become more sophisticated or sensitive is the media.  the fact that semenya has spent her whole life as a woman and identifies as a woman, has now been openly called into question, in cruel fashion – it seems as if reporters around the world now feel it is perfectly fair game to speculate on the state of this woman’s genitals.  it’s perfectly okay to discuss in print whether or not this woman “qualifies” as a woman.

for better or for worse, we live in a world where the vast majority of people line up nicely on either side of (what we like to imagine as the neatly binary) “man” “woman” divide.  by default, then, anyone who falls in between those two descriptive categories, is seen by society as unusual.  that doesn’t, however, mean we should allow people to treat them like freak shows.  and surely an organisation as familiar with this territory as the iaaf, could do much to pave the way in this area – rather than singling out those athletes people are whispering about behind their backs, why not establish baseline regulation and guidance for all athletes competing at an international level? determine people’s eligibility for competition before, rather than after? take measures to qualify all athletes, rather than just the gender-bending few?  gender testing was initially done away with in the late 90s, specifically because it is invasive and provides no clear answers.  so is that proposal an easy, cheap, or less controversial way to do it?  of course not – but in the current climate, it’s the only *fair* one.  after all, if you’re going to subject some people to humiliating and invasive screening, there’s no reason the same standards shouldn’t either be applied to all athletes across the board, or be ruled out entirely.  i can’t see anyway around it: either you err on the side of qualifying all, or you decide you will qualify none.  the iaaf said they wanted to deal with this matter “discreetly” – at which they failed spectacularly, with earth-shattering consequences for the woman in question.  so rather than discriminatorily pulling a select few behind the curtain based on scepticism and nasty mutterings, they could seek to implement a proportional and sensitive framework for decision-making before the fact, that applies to all equally, and does away with the tabloid-type talk and treatment of those athletes that “aren’t pretty”, (as a bbc commentator so disgustingly described semenya).

otherwise, (and this is the question which must be answered), why do it at all?  to strip those who don’t “qualify” as women/men of their achievements?  it may seem crude and wildly impractical to suggest that all athletes undergo some kind of process before they compete, but how much more barbaric is it to publically strip-search those individuals like semenya? because that’s what this amounts to.

this is an issue which will only become more common – as it should.  people of all genders and genetics must be allowed to compete in all arenas of athletics and daily life.  we need to identify a way forward for dealing with identity which is not based on “outing” the exceptions to the rule.

last night caster semenya managed to put the rumour and sensationalism behind her… and just be sensational.  it’s a shame the media couldn’t see past her gender, and view her for the true woman she showed herself to be.

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that *pop* you just heard? the sound of my heart breaking

by Jen at 5:23 pm on 30.07.2009 | 2 Comments
filed under: this sporting life

i was somehow hoping against hope that it couldn’t be true. first squeaky-clean alex rodriguez was implicated… but somehow that was okay, because he plays for the evil empire. then earlier this year, our previously beloved manny… but somehow even that was okay, because he no longer played for us.

and then this afternoon, the truth hit me squarely across the face in black and white:

Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, the sluggers who propelled the Boston Red Sox to end an 86-year World Series championship drought and to capture another title three years later, were among the roughly 100 Major League Baseball players to test positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003, according to lawyers with knowledge of the results.

which means the one thing, the *one precious thing* that i was praying would remain untainted… is no more. that dear memory has been sullied, tarnished, and i can never look back on that moment of glory in the same way again.

someone took one of my greatest joys, and slapped a big, fat, ugly asterisk on top of it.

unless you know what my red sox have meant to me through the years, i’m not sure i can accurately convey just how disconsolate i am. i can’t say i’m surprised, because when some of the biggest and brightest names in the game have admitted to doping, nothing surprises anymore. i never wanted to be that cynical.

but i am surely saddened to the very depths of my fandom, which, out of naivete or just wishful thinking, has somehow remained pure and true.

until today.

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over and out

by Jen at 7:03 pm on 26.05.2009 | 3 Comments
filed under: this sporting life

there is a british idiom which is so perfect in its meaning for the expression it is meant to convey: gutted.  when you are gutted, it feels like someone has just ripped your insides out, like something has just torn you up inside.  destroyed you from the inside out.  devastated.

i went out for a six mile run this evening, came home, withdrew my entry from the edinburgh marathon, and cried.

for the past three weeks (ever since my 20 mile run) i’ve been battling hip pain, to the point where i’ve barely been able to run at all.  the physiotherapist diagnosed bursitis of the hip  – the cushion of fluid that allows the tendon to glide over bone becomes inflamed and painful.  it can come from overtraining, and/or iliotibial band syndrome.  probably a combo of the two since i haven’t been able to do my yoga in the past 6 weeks, whilst simultaneously racking up lots of milage.

i’ve run through lots of pain before, stubbornly and ill-advisedly.  i once limped with gritted teeth through the last 10 excruciating miles of a marathon, popping insane amounts of ibuprofen, i was so determined to finish.  but if it hurts this much after just 6 miles, i’ll never make it for 26.  not in five days time, not for more than four hours of running.

the only thing worse than having to drop out now, would be having to drop out midway through.  i’m trying to comfort myself with that thought.

still, i’m crushed, and can’t pretend otherwise.  to come so close, to have trained so hard… and have to give it up.  i know people won’t understand why it’s so hard for me to accept. i know i means nothing to anyone else.

but i meant an awful lot to me.

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my bruins boyz

by Jen at 10:22 am on 16.04.2009 | 3 Comments
filed under: this sporting life

i’ve not said much about my boston bruins success (eastern conference winners, thank you very much!) for fear of *the jinx*.

but tonight begins the road to the stanley cup, i feel sure of it!  we face off against the hated habs later today.  for the first time since the lockout season, i like our chances. go bruins!

via andy, a bruins funny:

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going as far as these crooked legs take me, not waiting for ribbons or medals to praise me

by Jen at 7:12 pm on 13.04.2009 | 1 Comment
filed under: mutterings and musings, this sporting life

with only seven weeks to go until my upcoming marathon, andy said last night, “it’s a form of extremism.”

jonno said, “surely you’ve proven your point after three.  why do another one?”

i had a lot of time to ponder these comments today, as i spent the better part of three hours running.  they sprang to mind towards the end of 16 miles, when my feet were hot and aching, when my face was crusted with salt, when my clothes and hair were dripping with sweat, when my ligaments were as contracted and stiff as piano wire, when my stomach had long passed the point of painfully empty, when my leg muscles were burning to quit, when i was so tired i honestly didn’t think i could continue on.

and yet i did.

this is it.  this is what lies at the core of pushing myself to extremes: it is doing that thing which i think i cannot do.  it’s not to prove a point to anyone but myself – because no one sees you when you’re at mile 13 on a training run and struggling, or limping home with a pulled muscle after just four.  no one is impressed by that.   it’s reaching that point when i want to stop because things are too hard, too scary, too overwhelming… and getting past it.  because each and every time i get beyond the limitations of my fears and doubts and exhaustion, whether at mile 6 or mile 26, feels like a triumph. i feel like i can do anything.

i feel *invincible*.  that’s worth it all.

(and let’s face it: the nice muscle cut just above the hip is pretty cool too ) )

the acorn – crooked legs

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opening day 2009

by Jen at 6:37 pm on 8.04.2009Comments Off
filed under: this sporting life

a day late, but worth the wait – yesterday’s opening day marks the start of (what i predict to be) another fantastic red sox season.  teddy kennedy threw out the first pitch to new hall-of-famer and one of my personal baseball heros, jimmy rice.  the boys walked down through the stands to greet the fans on their way to the field, then bested the rays for the win.  bring on the baseball!

(photos from boston.com)

(photo from boston.com)

photos from boston.com

(photo from boston.com)

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class act

by Jen at 3:48 pm on 23.03.2009Comments Off
filed under: this sporting life

still in south africa at the moment, but couldn’t allow this to go by without a heartfelt hat tip – curt schilling annouced his retirement today.

whatever you may think of the man’s abrasive personality, the simple story is this: few people in the history of baseball have ever played the game harder, or with more integrity, than schilling. he was quite simply, a class act sportsman, and a truly great pitcher. he will be sorely missed.

thanks for everything curt. love, sox fans everywhere.

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clearly no nba expansion teams in the future then

by Jen at 8:05 pm on 17.02.2009 | 1 Comment
filed under: eclectica, this sporting life

anyone else notice what’s wrong with this advert?

hoops ad

yes, that’s right – they’re implying that you jump through basketball hoops. which makes no sense whatsoever. and then you realise that in a nation which knows less about basketball than probably any other american sport, it’s probably not so weird that it went unnoticed.

i think what they meant was something more along the lines of this:

flaming hoops

some days i feel like a stranger in a strange land.

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run like you mean it

by Jen at 8:31 pm on 9.02.2009 | 3 Comments
filed under: this sporting life, tunage

officially beginning to train up for the edinburgh marathon at the end of may. first and foremost, i needed new running shoes. you’re supposed to change up every 300 – 400 miles. when you’re training, you’re generally clocking anywhere between 20 – 50 miles per week, which means a pair of shoes can start wearing out in just a few months. but because they cost around £100 a pair, i don’t switch them up as often as i should.

witness the most recent pair to be retired:

there’s something a little sad about retiring a pair of shoes. i always hang on to the last pair, even though i never actually wear them again. i guess i just like to remember the good runs. and luckily, much like the pain of childbirth, the mind seems to block out the memories of the bad ones.

running shoes are, as a rule, hideous. seriously, who designs these things? it’s almost like the ugliness is a badge of honour – if your shoes are ugly, you must be a serious runner. i also admit to being one of those judgemental runners – i can tell at a glance who’s a serious runner, and who’s not, based on what they’re wearing and how they’re running. people who choose their outfits based on the cuteness quotient, people who run by swinging their legs to the side, people who run wearing completely improper shoes. and the number of women who don’t have a proper sports bra makes my chest ache just thinking about it.

i’ve developed a *fantastic* running playlist – a small portion of which i will unselfishly share with you here. no matter how leaden my legs, these songs get my ass moving a bit faster.



MP3 playlist (M3U)

and here’s the Podcast feed for downloads.

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mvp

by Jen at 9:07 pm on 19.11.2008 | 1 Comment
filed under: this sporting life

this will mean very little to anyone who isn’t a hardcore boston red sox fan, but anyone who saw him play this year knew dustin pedroia *had* to be the american league mvp. and now he is.

Dustin Pedroia, MVP.

Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it? It’s sort of like the first time you heard “Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger” or “Academy Award winner Marisa Tomei.”

Dustin Pedroia is the Most Valuable Player of the American League. This is simply one of the amazing sports stories of our time.

He is a miracle. He is a hardball mutant. He is the most unlikely man to win this award in the history of major league baseball.

Think about all the great Red Sox players who never won the award. Manny Ramírez was never MVP. Neither was Carlton Fisk. Nor Wade Boggs.

Fisk and Boggs are in the Hall of Fame and Manny is going to Cooperstown. None of them won an MVP.

Pedro Martínez? Bobby Doerr? MVPs?

Never.

Here’s how hard it can be to win this thing: Ted Williams won the Triple Crown in 1942 and in 1947. And he didn’t win the MVP either year.

In 1941, Ted hit .406.

“I thought that was pretty good,” Ted humbly remembered in 1999.

Pretty good. But not MVP-worthy. The 1941 MVP trophy went to Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio.

Maybe if Ted had done something really impressive, like hit .420 . . . Maybe if Ted perhaps had the skill set of . . . Dustin Pedroia.

The mind reels.

Things fell perfectly for Pedroia in 2008. He led the American League in hits (213), runs (118), and doubles (54). He won a Gold Glove. He stole 20 bases. He wore out pitchers. He got on base and didn’t strike out, and he did it for a playoff team.

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