A CAMPAIGN to end "blatant" gender discrimination in Cumbrian cross country running has won the support of MP Tim Farron, who has described the current situation as "bonkers."

There has been growing anger that men and women run different distances in the sport, in contrast to track athletics, fell running and road races, where in most cases both genders run the same distances.

Sarah Woodhams, whose daughter Rosie has represented Great Britain in mountain running events across Europe, said the situation was not acceptable.

"It is blatant discrimination," she said.

"Isn't it time the rules were changed to catch up with modern society?

"Perhaps they could reflect upon the Equality Act 2010. Change is coming and it would be nice if Cumbria was a part of helping this change happen."

And Mrs Woodhams' view has won the backing of Mr Farron, who is himself a keen amateur runner.

“It’s absolutely bonkers that this daft ruling still exists in 2019," said the Westmorland and Lonsdale MP.

“In every race I take part in, men and women run from the same starting point and end at the same finish line.

“Making girls run different distances to boys is devoid of all common sense and I fully support the campaign so that people are able to run according to their ability not according to their gender.”

The issue was first brought to the fore by the 'Run Equal' campaign, which was launched around a year ago by amateur runner Maud Hodson.

"On the roads we all run marathons and half marathons, on the track we all race over the same distance, but cross country is stuck in a bit of a time warp," she said.

The issue was reignited locally when the recent Cumbrian schools cross country championships saw different distances still in place for each gender.

Mrs Woodhams noted the event, which took place in Keswick, saw 18-year-old girls compete over the same distance as boys aged just 12.

And she said in her view the policy looked particularly absurd in the light of the stunning performance of Jasmin Paris in last week's 268 mile Spine Race, in which she smashed the course record and finished 15 hours ahead of her nearest male rival.

"It just seems very wrong," said Mrs Woodhams.

"We are told that 'girls develop differently,' but just look at Jasmin Paris's performance.

"Fell runners are treated equally as are track athletes. It's just cross country where they are not and there are no justifiable reasons why the situation cannot be changed."

Nigel Holl, interim chief executive of UK Athletics, said the organisation acknowledged the concerns raised and the issue was now being addressed.

“We have responded to requests and we are pleased to confirm that the Inter-counties Cross Country Championships in March - which are also the trials for the World Cross Country team - will feature equal race distances between senior men and women," he said.

“We recognise at county athletics level many associations have chosen not to equalise their distances, though some counties have done so to positive reception as have Scottish Athletics who have seen cross-country participation increases continuing through the period of this change being introduced.

"At present the rule book for the sport enables competition providers to run equal or differing race distances between genders, but we will be entering into consultation for the 2020 edition this year with this proposal.

"However, until any formal rule revision, we are working to support and encourage all competition providers to recognise the significance of equal distance competition and the opportunity it provides to support increased participation.”