'I want to run farther': 8-year-old wants boys and girls to run the same race length

·3 min read
Isla Morris after completing a five kilometre race at this year's Trapline Marathon. Isla is very proud to say that she
Isla Morris after completing a five kilometre race at this year's Trapline Marathon. Isla is very proud to say that she
Submitted by Kristin Pardy-Morris
Submitted by Kristin Pardy-Morris

Eight-year-old Isla Morris of Cartwright loves to run and she has no plans to slow down.

This fall alone, she ran five kilometres at the Trapline Marathon, where she even beat some adults. Most recently, Morris completed a one kilometre race at the cross-country running regionals in Charlottetown.

When she was at that regional competition, Morris realized something that she doesn't believe is fair. At eight years old, she was taking part in the Participation Nation run where boys and girls run the same distance but she realized in a couple of years, when she is in Grade 6, she'll be running a distance of two kilometres while boys the same age as her, will be running for three kilometres. For senior high those distances change to three and five kilometres, respectively.

"People don't know that girls can run the same distance as boys," says Morris when asked why she thinks there is a discrepancy between the distances.

Now, Morris and her mother Kristin Pardy-Morris are asking School Sports NL to change those rules so that boys and girls of the same age are running the same distances in competitions

"It would make me feel mad, I want to run farther," said Morris, thinking about how she will feel having to run a shorter distance than boys her age in junior high.

Submitted by Kristin Pardy-Morris
Submitted by Kristin Pardy-Morris

Pardy-Morris used to take part in cross-country running competitions in junior and senior high but says that when she was competing, the difference in distances didn't occur to her. It wasn't until her own daughter started competing that she became concerned.

"As a parent I only recognized it then that, 'what kind of a message does that really send,' because we all know that girls can run just as far as boys and they do in every other situation," says Pardy-Morris.

That's why her mother shared a video of Morris voicing her concerns on Facebook.

"I want to teach her and show her in any opportunity that I can that if you believe in something, maybe speak out against it and maybe try to make a change and she's done a very good job so far," says Pardy-Morris.

To that comment Morris interrupted her mother while she was on the phone to say "Thank you very much."

Submitted by Kristin Pardy-Morris
Submitted by Kristin Pardy-Morris

Pardy-Morris first reached out to School Sports NL in 2019 asking for the changes to be made but never received a response. She believes that was because of the pandemic and the fact that there weren't any school sports last year.

Previous changes reversed

School Sports NL did make changes to the running distances in the past, increasing the distance that the girls were running but found that the participation "dropped significantly."

"There's things to look at in terms of switching these things up… We have a lot of females and males that are coming out but they're coming out for fun. They're coming out to maybe perhaps train for their sport of their choice but they're not running as much as Isla is running," said Trisha Boyer, the acting executive director of School Sports NL.

Boyer says that there may be room to do a "novice" race category, where boys and girls can both run two kilometres and then shifting toward having male and female junior and senior high students run the same distance.

"We really need to send a message that both boys and girls can and are capable of running the same distances and having that extra race that's regionally based will allow students to participate in cross country because a lot of them do it and I think that's painful for them because they don't do the training ahead of time as much… I think that we definitely need to make it more accessible for them to enjoy it," says Boyer.

Any potential changes to School Sports NL regulations on cross-country running distances would have to be voted on at its next AGM in June.

Listen to the full interview:

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