Own More Than the Night
Saturday night can bring us many things. The prospect of good times, a drink, two drinks, TOO many drinks… a dance, an essential kebab and then an inevitable hangover the following morning. However this previous Saturday night there was an alternative past time that took over London.
With the marketing force of Nike, and the willingness of female competitors, together the two formed a tenacious team creating ‘We Own the Night’, a 10km race which took place in Victoria Park amidst the bustle and high rises of East London. The race was an entirely female event, and I was one of these red faced striders who succumbed themselves to the 10km slog.
As I and a group of friends entered the park, we breathed in the electric atmosphere that filled the air. Walking amongst the sea of turquoise t-shirts to try and locate our allotted starting point, I could feel the adrenaline rushing through me (a potent cocktail of caffeine and chocolate I had presumed necessary towards my training regime). Buzzing of endorphins, Nescafe and Peanut M&Ms, me and a fellow friend attempted to run the 10km in our target of sub 50 minutes.
When participating in something with a goal in mind, an amalgamation of thoughts obviously whizz through your head. Here is a slow break down of my thought progression that went from uplifting arrogance, declining towards mental instability:
- 1 KM – THIS IS AWESOME. I HAVE SO MUCH ENERGY.
- 2KM – Shit, ran that far too quickly.
- 3KM – Still going after the power 1 KM, I’ve got this.
- 4KM – Why don’t I run in 10km races more often???
- 5KM – 22 minutes. I am FLYING.
- 6KM – Coming for you Paula.
- 7KM – What’s that pain around my collar bone?
- 8KM – STITCH.STITCH. STITCH.
- 8.5KM – Are these my legs? Why do they feel like they are stopping?
- 9KM – 1KM to go. LEGS DO NOT STOP.
- 9.25KM – Paula, go on without me.
- 9.5KM – WHY CAN I STILL NOT SEE THE FINISH LINE?
- 300m to go – Those pre-race peanut M&Ms were a massive mistake. Crispy would have sufficed.
- 200m to go – THERE IT IS. SWEET, SWEET FINISH LINE.
- 100m to go – Am I actually going to vomit?
- 50m to go – Yup, pretty sure it’s is going to happen.
- Finish – Sub 50. No vomit. No over enthusiastic Nike employee that is dancing, I do not want Coconut water right now.
However, despite this rapid and ever-changing train of thought there was something else that the race got me thinking about. It was what we were all there for. Although I appreciated the support from the fellas on the side-line (with particular thanks to the gentleman who was stood by himself at 200m to go and shouted at me ‘YOU OWNED THE NIGHT! YES YOU!’) , and excluding the wonderful support from all the friends, family and partners. I personally found the ‘WOOOO GO GIRLS! You can do it! Keep running girly!’ coming from the staggered clusters of men swigging on cans red stripe and lining the gardens of the pubs slightly condescending, to the point where I became prepared to take my trainers off and run bare foot in order to hurl them at them.
This maybe a slightly aggressive attack on some side line comradely, but it did made me consider how far we might still have to go in western society when it comes having an equal standing between the genders (very much doubt that a man at 2km would have ‘DON’T STOP DARLING’ clamoured at him) and this progresses further when we think about it from an international perspective. It conjured thoughts of the Nigerian school girls ruthlessly kidnapped and threatened to be sold on as slaves, yet this did not immediately commandeer national headlines. Furthering from this, in the next decade 50 million girls are likely to be married before their 15th birthday. A horrifying 140 million women and girls have been subjected to Female Genital Mutilation, and 3 million girls still remain at risk of the procedure every year, and 64% of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo first sexual experience was assault; and this isn’t even the half of it.
Nike We Own the Night was a fantastic experience, and a great example of how awareness can be raised through mass group activity. However, there is a wider net to be cast. It’s beyond breaking the ‘darlings’ and wolf whistles that we may face here in the western world, and about the continuous struggle that is happening on a global scale. We’ve owned the night; now let’s take care of something bigger.