You should not be worried about Grizzly runner

You should not be worried about Grizzly runner

At the Missoula Marathon in 2010, I missed qualifying for the Boston Marathon by 2 minutes.

And a sex-change operation.

Eight months after running the New York Marathon in just over 4 hours, I finished the 26.2 mile race in Missoula in 3 hours, 47 minutes.

Even though my knees were killing me after the race — and for the next year — I was very happy with the time.

I was also very disappointed because, at the time, I would have had to run the marathon in 3:15 to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Since I had just trained as hard as I could, there was no way that I could possibly go 32 minutes faster to qualify for the greatest race of all.

Even if I had a top-notch trainer, my body was just not designed to run that fast. At 195 pounds, I am built for comfort, not speed.

The Boston qualifying time for women my age then, however, was 3:45.

That hardly seemed fair since 98 percent of the women my age who qualify for Boston weigh at least 70 pounds less than I do. Just ask you knees if that makes a big difference.

It would be way more fair if they based the qualifying times on your size, rather than sex.

Of course, transitioning into a woman so I could qualify was not on the table, so my dream of running Boston died right there on the Higgins Avenue Bridge.

Nobody in their right mind — or even those not in their right mind like anybody who ever ran a marathon — would do such a thing to gain a competitive advantage running. Or anything.

That is why you should not be worried about June Eastwood running for the University of Montana women’s cross country team.

Last week, Eastwood was named Big Sky Conference Female Athlete of the Week after placing second at the Bronco Invitational in Sunnyvale, California.

She will be among the favorites when the Grizzlies head to the Big Sky Conference Championship Saturday in Greeley, Colorado.

Judging by my Facebook feed, this does not sit well with a lot of people who probably never even realized that the Grizzlies even have a cross country team before they read about Eastwood.

Eastwood, you see, first joined the Grizzlies as a male runner named Jonathan Eastwood. During the fall of 2014, while running as a boy, Eastwood won the Class A state cross country title. Eastwood also won the 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter state championship in track the next spring.

Earlier this year, Eastwood became the first transgender athlete to compete in NCAA Division I cross country.

Predictably, this drew some backlash.

“He should run with the men,” was the basic sentiment from so many who shared a hateful story by Bill Zwerger of the “American Thinker.”

At least, that is the PG version of the general sentiment.

Zwerger really drove home his point by emphasizing the pronouns “him” and “he” as he tore down Eastwood. He even put her first name in quotes, as if that was somehow insulting.

Sure, a former male competing in sports against females is a very complicated subject. Is it fair? Maybe it is, maybe it is not. I have no idea.

But you know what? Neither do the people so outraged by it Eastwood running for the Grizzlies. They have not done a bit of research on the subject.

The NCAA, however, has. It has done extensive investigative work into transgender athletes, and the governing body seems to think it is fair for June to run as a woman.

The NCAA introduced an inclusion policy for transgender student-athletes in 2011. The policy compiles medical advice and understanding of transgender healthcare from several doctors and specialists in genetic studies.

It really is worth a read. (Click here to read it)

As guided by the policy, the NCAA allows transgender athletes who are transitioning from male to female to compete on a women’s team after being treated with testosterone suppression medication for one year.

Eastwood began identifying a female in middle school. She did not start transitioning until her third year running for the Grizzlies’ team.

Since Eastwood’s times were recorded before beginning her transition, you can see that she is running considerably slower than she was before beginning the transition.

She is also much more happy while running. Really, that is the most important thing. Competing in sports, even at such a high level as NCAA Division I, is about a whole lot more than winning.

You do not have to like the fact that Eastwood is running, but it is hard to argue the bravery she has shown in going through such a public ordeal.

Is she a hero? Well, that is hard to say. But you better damn well believe she is much more courageous than those posting hateful messages on blogs and social media.

The good news is that people like Zwerger seem to be in the minority, especially in Missoula.

Runner’s World recently featured Eastwood, and it highlighted her struggles living a “double life.”  (Read it here)

“Having that supportive community is part of what makes this possible,” Eastwood told writer Taylor Dutch. “It definitely helps dealing with the negativity around you when the people who are in your immediate vicinity are overwhelmingly positive.”

Again, it is a complicated subject. If you finished second to Eastwood in a women’s race, maybe you have a beef. If you lost a scholarship as a collegiate runner because you were replaced with a runner who transitioned from a man to a woman, you probably have the right to complain.

If you just read about her story on Facebook, then share and comment something like “he should run with the men,” maybe you need to read up on the topic just a little bit.

Would you transition so you could win a race? Would you do it to be part of a winning team? Would you do it to get a leg up on your career?

The answer to that is obvious. You would not. Nobody would.

Why someone would want to transition in the first place is behind me. It is also beyond me how my wife can watch all those Hallmark Christmas movies.

Likewise, she cannot understand how my life can revolve around a professional football team.

To each their own is just a good motto to live by.

The one thing I am pretty certain of is that people should open their minds and their hearts before they post on Facebook.

Nobody is going through all the trouble of transitioning from a man to a women for the chance to win the Big Sky Conference title.

That is more silly than thinking a sex-change operation is going to qualify you for the Boston Marathon.

— Bill Foley, who would rather transition than watch another Hallmark Christmas movie, writes a column that appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at foley@buttesports.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74. Check out his NFL picks every Thursday.



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