OLIVE Press reporter and former international runner Cristina Hodgson launched her own challenge for equality after a race at a local village in Spain.

They say that a challenged world is an alert world, appropriately, this year’s International Women’s Day 2021 theme is ‘Choose to challenge’.

Yet sometimes, without choosing, without even realising, we can challenge.

As a former international runner I comprehend what ‘challenge’ means, in every significance of the word, though, automatically, I always associated it with a physically demanding test.

Yet, ironically, one race will always stand out in my mind as one of my most ‘challenging’ but not for the physical toll undertaken.

It was New Years eve, 1998, and I had signed up to run the San Silvestre in a town near where I lived.

The gun went off and a tough 10 kilometre hilly road race through cobbled, medieval streets of inland Spain ensured.

With the cheers of the crowds echoing in my ears, I crossed the finish line, first female.

I was ecstatic, my first San Silvestre and I had won.

Former International Runner Cristina Hodgson
CRISTINA HODGSON At the European Masters Indoor Championships.

My elation was shorted lived however, as, whilst I was handed a small, cheap-looking medal to congratulate me on my win, the male winner walked off with an enormous trophy (that would even make the FIFA World Cup trophy look puny) a huge leg of Jamon Iberico, a box of wine and money.

I was left stupefied, to put it mildly.

My Spanish wasn’t so fluent back then, my facial expressions thankfully made up for my lack of lingo and did all the communication for me. Within minutes it became clear to the race director that I was frankly not impressed.

I was offered a mild apology, not satisfied however, I went to the local rag and told my story.

The following year I returned to race, I had my motives and it certainly wasn’t for a leg of Jamon— vegetarian that I am.

That year I walked away with a trophy, a leg of ham, a box of wine, money but most importantly on equal terms.

I never asked for more, just the same. I didn’t choose to challenge, but I’m glad I did.

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