EXCLUSIVE ‘I’ve been robbed’: Female runner, 51, who lost her Parkrun record to transgender woman feels ‘cheated’ and says it’s ‘unfair’ that her time was beaten by athlete who was born a man
- Deb Roberts said it did ‘not seem fair’ her record was broken by a trans athlete
A female runner who lost her Parkrun record to a trans athlete has said – ‘I feel robbed.’
Deb Roberts, 51, set her record-breaking time of 20 minutes and six seconds on the 5km Parkrun course in her hometown of Porthcawl, south Wales, more than five years ago.
The record, which she had held since summer, 2018, was in the female 40 to 45 age group category.
But on Saturday, transgender runner Sian Longthorpe, 45, who lived as a married man just four years ago, smashed Ms Roberts’ record for the category in a time of 18 minutes and 53 seconds in Porthcawl.
Ms Roberts, a prison officer, who was also competing in the same Parkrun event but now in the female 50 to 55 age group said she had initially been unaware that she still held the record.
Deb Roberts, 51, (pictured) set her record-breaking time of 20 minutes and six seconds on the 5km Parkrun course in Porthcawl, south Wales, more than five years ago
Siân Longthorpe, 43, completed last weekend’s Porthcawl Parkrun in a record 18 minutes and 53 seconds on Saturday
She said: ‘I only realised the record had still been mine when my friend told me last night. She then went on to tell me that it had been broken, by a trans-athlete.
‘I felt robbed, to be honest. If my record has been beaten by a natural born female runner, I would have accepted that as fair and square.
Top five women Parkrun athletes in Portcrawl
1. Sian Longthorpe
2. Deb Roberts
3. Liz May
4. Helen-Marie Davies
5. Anneliese Loveluck
‘I am very competitive, but I would’ve thought it was fair enough because all records are there to be broken and mine is no different.
‘Except this is different because my record has been broken by someone who was not born as a woman. That does not seem fair.
‘My friends have told me I must complain to Parkrun, but I’m not sure yet whether or not I will.
‘Parkrun is supposed to be about inclusivity, and I don’t want people thinking I’m having a moan just because I lost my record.
‘But if this had been a club competition , where the rules are so strict you get disqualified just for wearing headphones, I would definitely be complaining now.’
Ms Roberts said that although she still runs competitively for her Porthcawl running club, she takes part in Parkruns nowadays so she can spend time with her daughter, Molly, 26.
She said: ‘I love running with Molly and I treat Parkruns now as an opportunity to help her push her pace a little. We run alongside one another, usually around the 26 minute mark and we have great fun.
‘The only other time I felt cheated like this was when I was in a race a year ago and a man had put his wife’s barcode around his wrist instead of his own and he beat me into second place, but when I complained, the officials put it right. Somehow, I don’t think that will happen this time.’
Ms Roberts, who works as a prison officer at a men’s jail in South Wales, said she trains five days a week, around her shift pattern. In her early 40s, she represented Wales in cross country events.
Ms Roberts, a prison officer, was also competing in the same Parkrun event but now in the female 50 to 55 age group
Trans runner Ms Longthorpe was living as a married man until just over four years ago
The divorcee often races to raise money for a friend who has been diagnosed with motor neurone disease.
Yesterday, MailOnline revealed that Ms Longthorpe, 43, completed last weekend’s Porthcawl Parkrun in a record 18 minutes and 53 seconds on Saturday – a full one minute and 13 seconds ahead of her closest rival Ms Roberts.
The outcome of that race in West Wales on Saturday came to national attention today when the result was cited by Mara Yamauchi, a former British Olympian, as an example of what she believes is the exclusion of women athletes and their achievements in the name of being ‘inclusive’.
Ms Yamauchi, herself an elite marathon runner, used the Welsh race and the trans competitor’s clearcut victory in it as an example of her point that birth female athletes are not being treated fairly – saying she believes the record may now be ‘out of female hands forever’.
She stopped short of naming the race or its winner, but MailOnline has learned that she was Ms Longthorpe, a keen amateur runner from Devon.
Ms Longthorpe came out publicly as transgender in 2019 and is now one of the UK most high-profile trans runners – having been made a ‘frontrunner’ or brand ambassador by Asics, the running shoe label.
Ms Roberts said ‘it did not seem fair’ that her Parkrun record had been broken by a trans athlete
Ms Longthorpe, 43, completed last weekend’s Porthcawl Parkrun in a record 18 minutes and 53 seconds on Saturday
It was in that context that she gave an interview to the magazine Women’s Running in March 2021, in which she told of her journey to changing gender.
Parkrun’s current records in both male and female categories
Melissa Courtney holds the UK Parkrun record for the fastest female runner with a time of 15 minutes and 31 seconds, set in Poole, Dorset, on Christmas Eve last year.
TOP FIVE (FEMALE)
1. Melissa Courtney
2. Samantha Harrison
3. Charlotte Arter and Clara Evans
4. Sophie Wallis
5. Abbie Donnelly
Meanwhile, Andrew Baddeley is the fastest male runner at a UK Parkrun, after running the 5km course in 13 minutes and 48 seconds in Bushy Park on August 11, 2012.
TOP FIVE (MALE)
1. Andrew Baddeley
2. Alexander Amos Yee
3. Nicholas Griggs
4. Omer Ahmed
5. Adam Clarke
Ms Longthorpe described how she had always had feelings about her identity but had tried to bury them by getting married and having children – before the marriage broke up and she was forced to confront her ‘true feelings’.
She said: ‘I’ve now been Siân for about 18 months and it’s been amazing. It’s not without its difficulties, but generally it’s been just so much better than I feared, and for that I’m just so grateful.’
Fiona McAnena, of pressure group Fair Play for Women, said: ‘Parkrun is fully inclusive. Everyone runs or walks together fast or slow, you’re still welcome. But someone with a male body shouldn’t be claiming a female course record.
‘That belongs to a female runner.’
Ms Yamauchi had taken to social media to slam Parkrun’s self-ID gender rules when it was revealed that two trans runners hold women’s records for the fun run, including a former champion fell-runner who was jailed for attempted murder.
She revealed on Twitter that a Parkrun female record was ‘smashed to smithereens by a trans-identifying male’ – now know to be Ms Longthrope – last Saturday.
Later it emerged that another local Parkrun women’s record is still held by transgender champion fell runner Lauren Jeska, who was jailed for attempting to murder a UK Athletics official in 2016.
This prompted an outcry from activists, including the two-time Olympian who said it signified the ‘erasure of female achievements in Parkrun’.
Speaking of Jeska, 41, who holds the women’s record for the Aberystwyth Parkrun with 17 minutes 38 seconds, Ms Yamauchi said: ‘This outright Parkrun female course record is the second one held by a person born male that I am aware of.
‘There could be many more that we don’t know about.’
Former British fell-running champion Jeska was jailed in 2017 when a dispute over her eligibility to compete as a female athlete despite being born male turned violent.
Mara Yamauchi criticised Parkrun’s self-ID gender rules, saying males in the female category ‘means the erasure of female achievements’
Trans-woman Lauren Jeska was jailed for 18 years in 2017 for the attempted murder of UK Athletics official Ralph Knibbs
Oxford-educated Jeska, then 42, was handed an 18-year prison sentence for repeatedly stabbing UK Athletics’ head of human resources Ralph Knibbs, then 52.
READ MORE: ‘There could be many more’: Team GB Olympian slams Parkrun bosses’ self-ID gender rules as it emerges TWO trans runners hold women’s records including attempted murderer who stabbed official
Mr Knibbs suffered life-threatening injuries when Jeska took two knives to his office at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium and attacked him after being told her titles would be null and void in row over testosterone levels.
Two of his colleagues were also hurt as they tried to stop the ‘frenzied’ attack.
Since it emerged Jeska still holds the title, feminist activists have reacted with fury and say they are ‘lost for words’ amid claims it could exclude women from sport.
Parkrun is a global running community which organises 5km races every Saturday for all abilities, encouraging people to run, walk or spectate.
Parkrun was started in Teddington in 2004 and has gained fans around the world. It allows runners to self-identify their gender as ‘male’, ‘female’, ‘non-binary’ or ‘prefer not to say’.
A spokesman for Parkrun said the fun run was not a race or athletic competition overseen by national or international federations – such as World Athletics or UK Athletics – as they are community-led, focusing on inclusion and the improvement of public health.
They added Parkrun believed it would not be ‘appropriate or practical’ to request proof of gender or ‘adjudicate the validity of a person’s gender identity’.
They continued: ‘At Parkrun we aim to be as inclusive and welcoming as possible, and whilst there is and possibly always will be discussion around how we record and present people’s identities, we believe that our current solution is the most appropriate available at this time.’
Source: Read Full Article