A male perspective in a van full of women

This post was initially posted on our old server to Run Oregon by blogger Joe Dudman following the 2013 Cascade Lakes Relay. As people start getting ready for relays, we thought we would merge it with our website.

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Some of my vanmates take a break from discussing women’s running fashion long enough for a group photo.

Last weekend, I ran the Cascade Lakes Relay with a mixed team, and lucked into one of the most fun groups I’ve ever shared a van with. Part of what made it so much fun was the fact that four of my vanmates were women. My male teammate and I found ourselves suddenly thrust into an alien world of ribald female humor, risqué XX chromosome anecdotes, and enthusiastic discussions of women’s fashion. In other hands, this could have been a cringe-inducing ordeal, but these four women were so funny and friendly, and played off each other so well, that I spent most of the relay laughing myself hoarse.

At times I felt like a fly on the wall of a women’s locker room, as uninhibited bawdy female tales flew fast and furious. It was a rare opportunity to experience a feminine, yet not entirely ladylike, environment, and listen to estrogen-soaked banter that most men are never exposed to. Often terrifying, always hilarious, it made the time between legs fly by.

At one point, one of my female vanmates needed to change her top, so I gallantly closed my eyes, turned my head away, and even held my hand over my eyes to make it clear I wasn’t peeking. (I didn’t want to accidentally catch a glimpse and become transfixed, like a deer caught in the “headlights”). A couple of seconds after I closed my eyes the whole van erupted in hoots and hollers, and I thought I was really missing out on something spectacular, but it turned out we had caught up with our runner and the exuberant cheers were for him.

Not content with the incredible studliness right in front of their noses in their own van, our female teammates kept up a running commentary on the passing men, sometimes failing to limit themselves to their “indoor” voices, and occasionally expressing their appreciation directly to the men themselves. Outnumbered, I, on the other hand, kept my own observations and evaluations of the female running (and standing around) “talent” mostly to myself.

When they weren’t ogling the (other) buff guys, our women were ooohing and awwwing over the haute couture women’s running fashion on display along the course.

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The fashionable, funny, and fast women of Van 1

I first realized I was in for a unique experience at Exchange 3, when the conversation turned to observations of “cute” running skirts, ruffled tops, and women’s running attire brands. At least at that point my lone male vanmate was still with us, so the two of us were able to counter with some half-hearted jokes and teasing about their obsession with fashion.

But at the next exchange it was his turn to run, so I soon found myself alone in a circle with my four female teammates, who continued their discussion of women’s running garb and Portland’s fashionable clothing stores at the top of their outdoor voices. Without anything to contribute to the conversation, and feeling conspicuously out of my element, the best I could do was nod my head occasionally and try to blend in with the crowd whenever I caught a glimpse of someone looking my way with an amused expression.

During my time with my vanmates, I was also able to dispel some myths about the differences between the sexes: It turns out women can navigate just as poorly and belch just as loudly as men!

The 2013 CLR was one of my favorite relay experiences, and all kidding aside, it was largely because of the extremely funny, lively, smart, and talented women I had the privilege of sharing a van with. Oh, and the running was great too!

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