a starter's pistol for diana moon glampers
hunter kemper won the life time fitness triathlon yesterday in minneapolis. mr. kemper took home $80,000 for winning the men's race, $90,000 for winning the overall race, and a toyota worth approximately $30,000. emma snowsill, the women's winner, took home $80,000.
the difference stems from the race's equalizer format, in which female athletes are given a head start calibrated to produce a "sprint to the finish" among the top male and female athletes. somewhat nostalgically, the race is even billed as a battle of the sexes.
this year's equalizer was 9 minutes and 49 seconds, and mr. kemper's finishing time was 1:49. the equalizer is evidently recalibrated each year, from 11:03 in 2004 (when loretta harrop won by 2:44) to 9:32 last year. thus far, three men and two women have taken home the large overall purse.
as a decidedly non-competitive runner, this format has always creeped me out. more generally, i rebel against the idea of equalizing based on ascribed characteristics (age, race, and national origin spring immediately to mind) and then declaring an overall "winner." i'm not sure whether it is the harrison bergeron-style handicapping, the imprecision in the handicapping process, or the ninety grand that rests on the outcome, but i come away thinking that the format trivializes the efforts of both male and female winners.
other than familiarity, i don't know why i resist the idea of handicapping to produce an overall winner but remain comfortable with different qualifying times for male and female runners and awards specific to age-groups. of course, i've never "sprinted to the finish" with the hopes of taking home anything other than a cheap trophy or age-group medallion. would the real athletes prefer that $140,000 be awarded to the top male and the top female finisher, rather than the current "winner take most" division of $200,000 and $80,000? or, maybe i'm just soft and the equalizer doesn't go far enough. do you think they'd want a chance to take home all the money?