A female runner fighting against discrimination on tracks

A female runner fighting against discrimination on tracks

Turkish ultramarathon runner Şirin Mine Kılıç is a strong and challenging woman. I met her on the last day of the 2013 Runfire Cappadocia Ultra Marathon.

My GPS’s batteries had run out and I had left behind the spare ones, thinking I couldn’t carry them on the last day with me.

When I was left in one of the tracks not knowing which way to go, I was sure someone would show up; so I started waiting. 

Kılıç runs the ultra, which is a footrace longer than the traditional marathon. Carrying at least 10 kilos of weight on her shoulders, she entered the track and later noticed me. After telling her my problem, she started pulling me up to say she wouldn’t leave me behind and I had to continue with her.

She insisted that I finish the 260 kilometers, and despite all those days’ tiredness, I saw that she had immense power and energy. She could even run carrying me on her back. As it was hard for me to catch up to her speed, I insisted that she should continue by herself, but she wouldn’t; she was very clear and insisted on finishing the track together. As we entered the finish line, hand in hand, I remember that she had assured me all the way that she would never let go.

Women runners’ rights activist
Kılıç was inspired by Usain Bolt’s exceptional performance at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which encouraged her to run in August 2008, at the age of 39. During her school years, she played basketball, handball, and football, but all at an amateur level.

Her first race was the 15-km race at the Istanbul Marathon, two months after she started running. It was after this race she decided to run in the marathon. She ran her first marathon, 42.195 km Istanbul Marathon in 2009. She then decided to be a long-distance runner. She met Bakiye Duran, and with her encouragement and inspiration, started running the ultras, too. As a feminist and a women’s rights activist, she saw the lack of presence of women running on the tracks a problem. She started to encourage other women to run, while also struggling against all kinds of discrimination against women in sports organizations.

She said there were only men on marathon posters when she registered to join the 2009 Istanbul Marathon. She officially filed a complaint. She isn’t sure but maybe because of her objection, there were women on posters in 2010. This poster, being used today, has been used for seven years. She also fought against the norm of calling women “ladies” in announcements and final results.

She also led another struggle to raise awareness to the fact that fewer awards were being given to women and there were fewer categories for women. 

With time, Kılıç focused only on long-distance running. At the moment, she runs in the 45-49 age category and mostly ranks within the first three in the the 21-km half marathons and the 42.195-km marathons. She said her biggest success in the ultras was at the 2013 İznik Ultra 80-km race where she shared a platform with world famous ultramarathon runner Amy Sproston. She came first in Turkey’s first 24-hour race, in which she competed against three women, but says she actually competed against herself. The awards at the 2016 Gelibolu Marathon were eliminated, therefore nobody showed up, making me come first.