Playing Through

Nine-year-old Ryan Brown and 10-year-old Madison Boreman brought the pint-sized gender war to the Congress Avenue Mile

Madison Boreman (l) and Ryan Brown
Madison Boreman (l) and Ryan Brown (Photo by Thomas Hackett)

"It was like, 'Oh, man, I just drained all my energy – I'm done.' But then I'm like, 'Why is she still going?' I realized she wasn't done yet, so I had to keep going."

Ryan Brown, 9, was describing his race in the Congress Avenue Mile last Sunday with his training partner and tormentor, Madison Boreman, 10. The two members of the Cedar Park Classic Running Club were well ahead of the pack when they hit a red mat. Ryan thought the mat was the finish line and that he'd won by a nose. But when Madison kept charging, he realized he still had about 30 yards to go.

"I'm happy that I was right with her at the end," he said. In fact, they all but tied, Madison winning by a mere 10th of a second, with a time of 5:36.50.

As a general policy, it's usually best when the ladies finish first. Even so, Ryan could do without the bragging. "When I beat her, which I usually don't, I just say, 'Good race.' But today, when they posted the times, she was like: 'Ha-ha! I beat you.' And I don't like it. It really doesn't make me cheer up."

Of course, Madison has her take on things. She loves the competition; she just doesn't like the way Ryan ignores her. However, she recognizes that a certain tension is probably inevitable. Ryan is a boy, after all. And if it's true that "well-behaved women seldom make history," it's also true that diffident girls never beat boys.

Which, Ryan insists, he's cool with. Really. "I'm fine with her beating me, but she can be real bossy. She'll even throw sand in your eye."

There will probably be a few more sand-throwing incidents in the years to come. But Ryan and Madison won't be competing against each other for long. Soon enough, they'll be segregated by sex.

Unfortunately, too, there will come a day when the grownup Ryan Brown and Madison Boreman will hardly ever compete in the mile. Both say they plan on going to the Olympics and setting world records. But the older they get, the opportunities to compete in middle-distance races will practically disappear. Yes, there are marathons and 10Ks galore, but unless you're an Olympic-caliber athlete, competing in the mile has always been like playing the tuba in a marching band – something you really only get to do in high school and college.

Paul Carrozza, owner of RunTex, is determined to correct that. He started the Con­gress Avenue Mile 20 years ago, when marathons were all the rage. "We've gone through the era of beating the distance," he says. "Now we're entering an era of quality over quantity, of trying to democratize the elite running experience in races like the mile."

I only wish he'd keep it so that boys and girls, even boys and girls in their 40s and 50s, can keep competing against one another, à la Ryan and Madison.

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Ryan Brown, Madison Boreman, Cedar Park Classic Running Club, Congress Avenue Mile, Paul Carrozza, RunTex

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