Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Nike holding women's race in Seoul on June 4, all welcome, no grannies please

Women's races in running are interesting because the women's race tends to take a backseat in mixed-gender races. Even if the world's best woman crosses the finish line of the Boston Marathon a good 15 minutes after some C-list male runner, she'll still an afterthought to some extent. If male runners competed alongside cyclists, the experience would be comparable.

Women's running is something of an oxymoron in Korea, where running is extremely popular, but amateur female runners are almost impossible to find. So, Nike took it upon itself to create a women's-only race, but 7 km instead of 10 km because women are delicate, and started marketing it heavily on university campuses.

The race's slogan is "스무살, 그녀들이 처음으로 달리기 시작했다 (At the age of 20, those girls first started running)". Interestingly, the videos on the website mostly feature young women standing, talking and, um, jumping rope. The idea, I suppose, seems to be to target a younger generation that's more open to new ideas for a popular race that largely targets people that have never run before.

Why Nike is specifically targeting people who don't run instead of those that do is bizarre on the surface, but can make sense in some way. Running, as promoted in the West, is about as cool as Oprah's book of the month. It's something that fat people do to stave off heart attacks and others do to raise money for some charity. A few skinny guys and girls might be training for the Olympics, but they only register every four years. Running is similar in Korea, something that generally old people do. If you see the first woman in a Korean road race, she will be in her 30s at least, often older.

So, naturally, Nike defined the race as such:

Register starting midnight on April 15.
Events: 7k race and after party (note: the Korean sickeningly uses entire loan words like 7k 레이스 & 애프터파티, a sure tip-off of cheesiness)
Eligibility: 3,000 women who are running the first race of their lives (생애 첫 레이스에 도전하는 20대 여성)
Fee: 30,000 won ($30)

When I saw that, I noticed the absurdity of the race. A women's race presumably tries to afford women sporting opportunities that they can not find in a more intimidating mixed event, which is generally one that's mostly for men. This is by no means the only women's race in Korea, and I imagine that the others are not as preoccupied with age.

I wrote on Twitter:

"so #nike #korea came up with a women's race. but for some reason, it's only open to women in their 20s. bizarre, no?"

Nike wrote back:

"Training Run and We Run Seoul in autumn this year is available for all men and women. Thank you."

I wrote:

"상관 없는 것 같아요. 이번 대회는 nike women's race보다 "nike 아까시 run" 아니죠?"
("I don't really think it makes a difference. Isn't this race more of a Miss Nike Run than a Nike Women's Race?")

The Korean word 아가씨, which I misspelled above because I'm an idiot, refers to a young unmarried woman. Better translations than "miss" are welcomed.

Instead of ignoring me, whichever genius is in charge of the Nike Korea Twitter decided to lie:

"Nike Women's Race is available for all women over age 20 in Korean age. Thanks."

I pointed out:

"then why does it say "참가자격: 도전하는 20대 여성"?" (translation: only women in their 20s are eligible)

Nike wrote back: "The race mainly focuses to 20s though, all women over 20 may register for the race. '참가 자격' (eligible) in the website has been changed as '참가 대상' (target) for the moment. We're sorry for confusion."

So now, women over 20, who were previously told to kindly fuck off, are now just requested to stand in the corner and avoid getting their wrinkly faces in any of the promotion shots of thin young women engaging in light, pleasant yuppie-friendly exercise.


Alex said...

I also have a problem with the eligibility being open only to those who will be running their first race.

So only young non-runners are invited?

Get your heads out of your asses, Nike.

Carmen said...

미스 나이키 ^^
Miss Nike

emarbi said...

Hi! im a foreigner here in korea. Last sunday I went to myeongdong and saw this Nike women run and i tried looking for any registration and sad to say i haven't found one. when i checked your blog, i was shocked that this race is only for SINGLE women... so sad that I can't even join since im already married. maybe they really want this run for single women :( do you know of any other fun run held in seoul?

Adeel said...

I don't think it says anywhere that this is a race for single women. Nike would prefer it if you're in your 20s, but it's not necessary.

Registration is on their website (in Korean) and currently shut down to the high demand. It will start again on April 22.

There are races every weekend in Seoul. Here's a list. Nike has a big one in the fall.