Over the past few days, I’ve had a dose of the dreaded man flu. I know that its man flu as I’m an adult male and I have a sore throat, steaming nose and feel lousy. Yet, when it was passed on to me by my youngest daughter, I suspect that it was the less virulent version that is just flu. In fact Ellie described it as a “cold”. Somehow the illness seems to mutate when it crosses the gender barrier. In that way, it’s like many other things that seem to hit the male of the species harder, like hangovers. Could this really be so?
Well, I’ve witnessed birth and, yes, it did look extremely painful, especially as it took 36 hours. Yet, for millions of years, women have put up with it. Indeed, for many, it is the defining moment of their lives. So, it can’t be so bad because, if it is, it could mean that women have a higher pain threshold than men. How could this be so in the so called “weaker” sex? It would be, in fact, an oxymoron.
At which point, I feel obliged to add a couple of pertinent facts. In the USA, the longest race for women, sanctioned by the Amateur Athletic Union, was a mile and a half. That is until April 1966 when Roberta Gibb, having been refused admission, took part in the Boston Marathon. Wearing a hooded sweatshirt, she hid in the crowd until about half the contestants had started; at which point, she joined in. In response to the support from the other competitors and the cheers from those watching, she took off her hoodie and continued to run. She finished in a little over 3 hours and 20 minutes, ahead of two thirds of the other, male, runners. The winner finished in just over 2 hours and 17 minutes. The women’s record for the same event today is just over 2 hours and 15 minutes, held by the amazing Paula Radcliffe, with the men’s at just over 2 hours and 3 minutes. It seems that they’re catching us up, guys.
Even more remarkable is someone I’ve met in my speaking work; Shelly Taylor Smith. Despite the fact that, as a child, she suffered from scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine, she won national swimming competitions in her native Australia. On a scholarship in the USA, she suffered from paralysis of the lower body and, during her recovery, her coach noticed that her performance improved the greater the distance she swam. At which, he encouraged her to take up marathon swimming. I won’t go on about all the medals she won and records she broke, you can Google this for yourself. What is important, however, is that, in 1995, she broke the record for swimming the Manhattan Island Marathon, a mere 48 km, in an event featuring both men and woman. Amend that statement above, guys, to read “leaving us behind!”
I really mustn’t let this man flu get to me so much.