It is the hidden meaning to the frequent throwaway comments that most rankle for Lily Partridge and Charlotte Purdue – Britain’s two leading female marathon runners.
“You two don’t look like marathon runners,” someone might say. “You look too strong to be marathon runners”, another might chirp up.
Accustomed to dealing with such offhand comments, the pair are well versed in laughing them off. But the fact they are even made exposes a serious issue around the pressures on women in sport – an issue of body image that has potential for dangerous outcomes.
“Female athletes are under pressure to look a certain way,” says Partridge, speaking to Telegraph Sport ahead of the defence of her British title at the London Marathon on Sunday.
“Over the years we’ve had a lot of British marathon runners who are thin, but does that mean a marathon runner has to look like that?
“If me and Charlotte don’t look like marathon runners, then what is a marathon runner supposed to look like?