Home Sports Nurse’s London Marathon Record Is Rejected Because She Didn’t Wear a Dress

Nurse’s London Marathon Record Is Rejected Because She Didn’t Wear a Dress

LONDON — When Jessica Anderson joined more than 40,000 runners for the 2019 London Marathon last week, she had a goal in mind: Break the Guinness World Record for the fastest woman to run the marathon in a nurse’s uniform.

Ms. Anderson, a nurse at the Royal London Hospital, crossed the finish line in 3 hours 8 minutes 22 seconds, beating the record set in 2015 by Sarah Dudgeon by 32 seconds.

Image

Jessica Anderson crossed the finish line of the London Marathon in 3 hours 8 minutes 22 seconds.CreditEric Tolentino, via Jessica Anderson

Record accomplished? Not so fast.

Guinness rejected the record because Ms. Anderson did not wear a dress, she said in an interview on Sunday. Ms. Anderson had run the London Marathon in blue, baggy scrubs — the uniform she wears as a nurse with the National Health Service — to raise money for her unit’s charity fund.

“They said it had to be a white or blue dress, pinafore apron and white cap or it wouldn’t count as a record,” Ms. Anderson said in an Instagram message on Sunday.

“I didn’t want to wear that, so I chose to wear my real uniform instead because the title of the record is ‘fastest marathon in a nurse’s uniform,’” she added. “But was still aiming for the record time.”

Ms. Anderson also told the website Runner’s World on Friday: “I’m sure Guinness World Records don’t intend to cause offense, but it would be nice if they decided to revise their criteria instead of reinforcing old gender stereotypes. I get that it’s supposed to be a fun thing, but their definition is just so outdated.”

She also noted, “I’ve certainly never seen a male nurse wearing a dress to work.”

Ms. Dudgeon, the record-holder, ran the 2015 London Marathon in a nurse’s outfit that included an apron and a Red Cross cap. It is not clear whether she worked as a nurse.

That Ms. Anderson was denied credit for her feat because of what many saw as a sexist, outdated criteria spurred social media users and nurses to share pictures of real-life nurses’ uniforms on Twitter under the hashtag “What Nurses Wear.”

Dozens of nurses — men and women alike — posted photographs of themselves in white, blue, dark red and purple scrubs, generally a two-piece outfit with pants.

“Nursing is about the care we deliver not the uniform we wear,” Samantha Knipe said in a tweet.

Scott Westwater, a student nurse, asked whether Guinness World Records would “dismiss this nurse if she happened to be male instead of female.” He added, “You not only disrespect the female gender but the wonderfully open nursing profession in general.”

“Let’s change the archaic view,” the online community Student Nurse Project posted on Twitter.

In response to the backlash, Guinness World Records said on Saturday that it would review the criteria for the record title.

“It is quite clear that this record title and associated guidelines is long overdue a review, which we will conduct as a priority in the coming days,” the group said in a statement.

The episode comes amid a far broader debate on the disparities faced by female athletes in general, including pay — members of the United States women’s soccer team filed a gender discrimination lawsuit in March over pay equity and working conditions — and over the right to compete as one was born. Caster Semenya, the two-time Olympic champion at 800 meters, lost a challenge on proposed limits for female athletes with naturally elevated testosterone levels.

But the publicity surrounding Ms. Anderson’s case helped her achieve another goal: As of Sunday, she had raised more than 3,000 pounds (about $3,950) for Barts Charity, a nonprofit organization that supports the acute admissions unit where she works in East London — wildly surpassing her initial £500 goal.

She said on Sunday that the attention was “a real surprise.”

“The vast majority of comments have been really positive, especially from fellow nurses,” Ms. Anderson said, adding that “the chief nursing officers for England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland all tweeted pictures of themselves in uniforms!”

The London Marathon came under fire last week after it emerged that cleanup crews had appeared to target slow runners with insults.

Elizabeth Ayres, who was pacing a group expected to finish in seven and a half hours, told the BBC on Thursday that she heard comments such as “If you weren’t so fat, you could run,” and “This is a race, not a walk.” She said she would “rather the race was canceled than people being spoken to like that.”

The director of the London Marathon, Hugh Brasher, apologized to Ms. Ayres and her fellow runners on Thursday.

“We are absolutely determined to understand what went on,” he told the BBC. “It will take time to do it, but I can assure you that the investigation will be thorough and as a result of it changes will be made.”