I hate to admit it, but it is rare to find an athletic event that we women are built to excel in better than men. Ultrarunning is that great equalizer – the longer the distance, the more we begin to “compete” with our male counterparts. Why is that?
Some medical research suggests that women possess anatomical traits that lend better to tougher ultra-distance events. Women can suffer long and we can suffer hard. The more challenging the task at hand becomes, the deeper we dig into our well. For me, it’s about proving that I belong – that I deserve a place in the spotlight and can mix it up with the men. The quest to be treated as equal will never end and so when the going gets tough, it’s time to turn it up a notch.
It is this raw honesty and relentless physical toil that got me addicted to the sport of ultrarunning in the first place. Out there, journeying through endless miles of wilderness, is where I feel belonging. Those trails feed the soul. You can shed all of your societal skins and be free. Strip down (sometimes literally) and unleash your inner wild without fear of judgement – something that every female athlete faces. Judgement not only from those who have particular views about women in sports, but also the internal judgement we impose upon ourselves every time we step in front of the mirror.
But out on the trails…we curse, spit and perform other bodily functions that don’t need mentioning (dare I say, just like the men?). Okay, some of us don’t need the freedom of the trails to partake in these activities, but we can still appreciate it! My point is, ultrarunning presses the reset button for women, setting us free to perform without constraint until every last ounce of energy is depleted and through that process we are rewarded. We are empowered. We are in control. We are centered. To me, this is what ultrarunning embodies.
I started running 12 years ago out of a need to feel control over some aspect of my life (hint: I’m kind of a control freak). Competing as an ultrarunner brought me the control and internal balance I was seeking because I felt – as a woman, instead of in spite of being a woman – I was built for it. I was empowered to simply run as hard as I could, as far as I could, as fast as I could until I thought I would break. If anyone was going to break me, it was going to be me.
I know I am not alone. Over the years I have met many strong, accomplished women who have that drive deep within them. There is something underneath that calm, cool exterior that is tapped into on the race course. And the results are inspiring.
So ladies, let’s get out there and show everyone what we’re made of. Let your biologically predisposed tenacity, grit, and determination shine. Have the confidence to push yourself further. You may discover things you never knew about yourself. You may dig to depths you never knew existed. I guarantee you will be rewarded countless times along the way.
And a special thank you to all of the women out there who have been blazing the path for people like me and you – racing without limits and without fear. I love and support each and every one of you. And also, thank you to the men who embrace us. Those who believe in us and push us to expose our strength. Those who run alongside us and celebrate us when we “chick” them.