You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

EDITORIAL

Marathons: A world record for unfairness

Paula Radcliffe of Britain crosses the finishing line of the women's event of the 38th Berlin Marathon on September 25, 2011 in Berlin. AFP PHOTO ODD ANDERSEN (Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

Paula Radcliffe of Britain crossed the finishing line of the women's event of the 38th Berlin Marathon on Sept. 25, 2011 in Berlin.ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Continue reading below

Paula Radcliffe hasn’t tested positive for steroids, taken a shortcut on a course, or cheated in any other way. But the legendary British marathoner recently had her two best times removed from the list of world records anyway, because of an odd rule change. Radcliffe’s offense? Both times came in races that included men. Radcliffe remains the women’s world record holder – her former third-best time of 2:17:42 is now the official record – but not with the time she earned.

The decision by running’s governing body is unfair to Radcliffe, and out of line with the way other sports have handled records when rules shift. For instance, when swimming voted to ban certain high-tech suits in 2009, the sport didn’t retroactively invalidate records set under the old rules.

In the case of the ban on men, though, the rule change itself is also perplexing. The worry is apparently that if female runners are allowed to use men as pacesetters, it somehow taints their own times. Records can now only be set in women-only races, or races where women start far enough ahead of men that they don’t mix. But that loses sight of why men’s and women’s records are separate in the first place, which is to account for biological difference. Having a pacesetter might provide women runners an advantage, but it doesn’t alter the fact that they still crossed the finish line, under their own power – and with both their X chromosomes intact.

Loading comments...
Subscriber Log In

We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles'

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Already a subscriber?
Your city. Your stories. Your Globe.
Yours FREE for two weeks.
Enjoy free unlimited access to Globe.com for the next two weeks.
Limited time only - No credit card required!
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.
Thanks & Welcome to Globe.com
You now have unlimited access for the next two weeks.
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.