The Dirty Kanza and #200women200miles: Constraints to Female Participation in a Male-Dominated Sport


  • Lauren E. Mullenbach Penn State University
  • J. Tom Mueller Penn State University
  • Alan R. Graefe Penn State University



constraints, cycling, inclusion, social marketing, women


Long-distance endurance sports have been dominated by men since their inception, and gravel cycling is no exception. However, one event held annually in Emporia, Kansas—the Dirty Kanza—increased female participation in its signature event, a 200-mile gravel road race, by reserving 200 places for women in the 2017 event and promoting this initiative with a social media hashtag campaign, “#200women200miles.” Women historically represented just 10% of participants in the race, despite finishing at similar times and at similar rates as men. To try to increase female participation, event organizers recruited women using a marketing initiative and reserved spaces for them in the race. Given the novel nature of this intentional, inclusive initiative, we wanted to understand women’s constraints to participating, as well as which negotiation strategies and which facilitation efforts helped them ultimately compete. We compared men’s and women’s motivations, constraints, negotiation strategies, and facilitation strategies to help identify marketing efforts that may have improved women’s participation, using a post-race survey. With a sample of 916 participants (53% response rate), independent sample t-tests detected differences between men and women in motivations, constraints, negotiation strategies, and facilitation strategies. Women were more constrained—in training and competing—and used more negotiation strategies than men. Women also reported concerns related to safety and training, indicating that more work needs to be done to make other aspects of cycling more inclusive. Despite these challenges, the targeted initiative #200women200miles was successful in filling spots in the 200-mile race, as many women reported that the marketing campaign was a facilitator of their participation. Thus, implications for event organizers include the demonstrated potential for similar strategies to increase participation in other underrepresented groups. If gender equity is desired by event promotors and organizers, explicit efforts to make endurance cycling races welcoming for women is essential. Although some findings confirmed hypotheses, we found that this sample was largely unconstrained, which speaks to the relative affluence and privilege of the sample. Future research should therefore investigate constraints faced by other underrepresented groups, such as those with low incomes or racial and ethnic minorities, to see what facilitation strategies might be employed to continue increasing participation in elite sports. Subscribe to JPRA 





Special Issue: Marketing Leisure with Diverse Populations