A Palmerston North runner has interested the city's half-marathon event organisers in adding a "Clydesdale" category for competitors on the heavy side.
Recently appointed Massey University school of management lecturer Andrew Dickson is pushing for the category's inclusion to enable "big" runners like him to compete against people their own size to better reflect their effort.
"There are guys at 90 kilograms in New Zealand who can run a half marathon in 1.5 hours and that's pretty amazing considering what they put their bodies through. That's something we should be celebrating, in my view," he said.
Dr Dickson this month made headlines alongside American scholar Cat Pause in Wellington when she staged a so-called "fat conference" challenging how society views the health of its heaviest.
Dr Dickson wears many hats, including academic, father of two, and veteran marathon runner - and although he tips the scales at just over 90kg, don't call him "fat".
While his body mass index classifies him as "obese", his ability to run up to 150 kilometres a week puts paid to societal assumptions that big means unfit. He once ran a half marathon in 1 hour 35 minutes.
"There is a confluence of weight and health and [people] tend to lump them together and think being thinner is going to mean being more healthy," said Dr Dickson, who wrote his thesis on the "weight anxiety" industry.
He had approached the Manawatu Striders for support in adding a men's weight-based category to the race, when he moved from Raumati to Palmerston North two months ago.
Manawatu Striders president Kevin Palmer said while it was too late to add the Clydesdale category to this year's half marathon in August, organisers were considering it for next year.
"We are interested in encouraging as many people as possible - irrespective of age, gender or size - to take part."
While his BMI of about 28 might be considered "unhealthy" on paper, Dr Dickson is by no means unfit. Well-built All Blacks and other muscular athletes would also be classified as obese, according to the formula that calculates body mass according to height and weight measurements.
Dr Dickson once dropped his weight from 130kg to 85kg after a doctor prescribed him the appetite suppressant Reductil, and he combined running hundreds of kilometres a week with becoming a vegetarian teetotaller, willing to dehydrate to push his weight down.
Nowadays he is comfortable as a healthy "Clydesdale" athlete pushing the 90kg to 100kg mark - a female equivalent is called an "Athena".
The Clydesdale category is already in place in the Rotorua half IronMan event, and prominent Northland Maori community leader and runner Harko Brown has also had success pushing for its inclusion in the Kerikeri half marathon.
Dr Dickson has fielded interest from about 70 people on his blog othersideofweightloss.org and is urging other Clydesdale runners to get in touch.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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