Okay, maybe not dramatic enough to necessitate a quote from the man himself, but I couldn't (who could?) come up with anything better?
One of the first things pointed out to me when we started promoting the inaugural Clint Eastwood in 2018, was that it shouldn't be called a 'Last Man Standing', given that females and males competed equally. It was never our intention and but for one publication somewhere, it has always been referred to as a Last One Standing event (or the LOSER - you saw that here first!)
However, the same person that mentioned it at the time, also mentioned that she couldn't understand why there shouldn't be separate female and male categorisation in the results. There's barely any other sport of note (queue examples of other sports of note) that doesn't make the distinction. We've maintained that the nature of the event is such that it's deemed to be a format that enables competition on equal terms. It is, after all, about the 'last one' (curiously, if you simply Google 'last man standing', you will come across plenty of instances where events are listed or labelled as such).
I explained that:
it was the last one standing and that
if there were two separate races, male and female, then whichever was the last male or female standing wouldn't be able to continue if the other was still coompeting (your race is run once one person has run a lap more than any other).
Like most things, it's not that simple when you get into it.
The numbers (facts even ...)
There have been several females who have surpassed the achievements of their male counterparts of course, Courtney Dauwalter and Maggie Guterl being among the most obvious at LOS. But they truly are the exception, and you can count them on the fingers of a few hands. Some might, and likely will, argue that these examples simply inspire other females, of all abilities, to aim higher and to aspire toward ever bigger goals. This is all true of course.
But the crux of the matter is, that to suggest that all things are equal is simply not true.
The current female world's best (Dauwalter's 68 laps at Big's Backyard during the inaugural Team Championships) is 33 laps shy of the men's world best (a shade under 33%).
In the recent World Team Championships, there was a sole female winner (Angelika Huemer-Toff of Austria, with 36 laps)
In the same Championships, 64 of a total of 543 runners were female (11.8%), with only 5 of 37 teams having a female cohort of greater than 20% (Netherlands, Hungary, Iceland and Ukraine each had five female team members)
Here in Australia, the exploits of Phil Gore, Ryan Crawford and Robert Parsons were, quite rightly, heavily lauded reported. By comparison, there was little said about Margie Hadley, who set a new Australian female best when she broke Jessica Smith's record, beyond the moment it happened (as I said, by comparison)
What does it mean?
These figures tell a story. Though there were likely some instances whereby runners declined to participate, and maybe a handful who were overlooked, the numbers illustrate tha female participants simply aren't running enough laps to qualify for selection, for the time being at least. This is not to diminish anyone's achievements, far from it. But in relative terms, female and male athletes are running not only on an unlevel playing field, but at a different venue altogether!
As it stands, if your aspirations are to take part in an international event or make it to Big's Backyard (which is how the team event came about), you'll be taking part in what is effectively and open event. No gender or age categories, no gender categories, no disability categories (Aaron Steward, a visually impaired athlete, has participated in every Clint Eastwood event). From 100 metres right through to 6-day ultra-events, this happens nowhere else in running. While there's no problem with this - it's the makeup of the LOS format, right? - it doesn't seem right that, but for the application of a little thought and effort, there isn't distinct recognition without compromising the true nature of the main event.
The ethos of LOS events, is that it doesn't matter if you're at the pointy end, back of the pack, whatever. This is a race where everyone is equal, regardless of anything. But being equal doesn't mean you are the same, only that you should be treated as such.
So, starting with the 2023 event, Clint Eastwood will consist of three classes - the LOSER and two sub-classes:
Open All participants, regardless of gender, run under the same conditions. Includes all participants in both the men's and women's class. The same as it's been from the outset.
Female All females running under the same conditions.
Male All males running under the same conditions
Participants are registered for the LOSER and by default will be in the male or female class accordingly.
So what actually changes as far as the running of the event?
Not too much.
Everyone starts at the same time. Everyone runs as far as they can. Everyone has their own goals (that may or may not be tuned in to others' goals).
But the results will present a male and female winner, as well as the open winner - the Last One Standing. The latter could be male or female, nothing is removed from the equation.
The only technicality is that the gender results will be recorded as the number of laps achieved when there are no athletes of the same gender remaining. Whether male or female, that participant can continue beyond in the open class.
If we applied the same to the 2021 results, if the gender categorisation had truly existed, beyond the way the results are displayed here, Jalna Clair was the last woman standing with 26 laps (when Nicole Jukes was unable to continue after 25 laps):
However, in the open standings, Jalna was 4th with a total of 30 laps:
Of course, the same would apply if a lone male was left standing to win the men's race, with several females still running. The last man standing would continue, if able, along with them in the open event, with the winning distance for the men's race being the number of laps he recorded when there were no other males left standing.
The LOS rules are straightforward. Once the winner has completed a lap more than the assist, by virtue of timing out, not completing or not starting that last lap, the race is over. So the female/male result has no bearing on the outcome of the open event. That's part of the contradiction of the format, the winner never gets to find his or her limit.
So, for each to be a distinct race we feel this must be applied. But in this instance, because they're part of the overall race, they may do so because they're still in the open event.
If the overall result is the same, what's the point?
I'm guessing many will recognise the image above. This year's trophy, awarded to Ryan Crawford for his second Clint Eastwood win, was to illustrate the importance and vitality of every minute and every second. Not only during the event but in life itself. His result this year was a few years in the making and was the culmination of a steep learning curve.
But that was by no means the whole story of the 2022 Clint Eastwood. With the two previous years being decimated by the impact of COVID-19 (as were many events), we were finally able to put on the event with a near complete field in attendance. There were some real heroics on display and, while everyone's attention away from the venue was on Ryan and Kevin Muller as they pushed themselves to Kevin's limit, Nikki Wynd completed 36 laps, with Charlotte Roberts managing 35 and an assist of 11 laps.
In hindsight, we think she earned a clock of her own!
The bottom line?
Business as usual. There's just a little bit more at stake for everyone who toes the start line.