This year's International Women's Day theme is all about equality and so, when better to explore the theme within ultra running?
Strength, determination and sass: just a few of the qualities that come to mind when I think about my fellow females on the trails. We've been treated to some magnificent performances: Jasmin Paris winning the Spine outright whilst breastfeeding; Courtney Dauwalter crossing Moab 240's finish line 10 hours before the next competitor and let's not forget the original Queen of the Hills, Nicky Spinks flying the flag for the fell runners - for some time she held the overall fastest time for the double Bob Graham Round.
Are they super women or do we really have the stamina to beat the guys? When considering distances over 195 miles, we are speedier! Generally the further the distance, the bigger the advantage we have. I'm guessing that's because of our grit and maybe also our organisational skills too.
Superhumans aside, trail and ultra running seems to be booming at the minute - there's an ever growing number of inclusive races and it seems as though the days of ultra running being for an elite few are well and truly over. Despite this, the statistics still say that women are underrepresented in ultras, Runnersworld shared that in 2020 23% of ultra participants were women. I have to admit that I'm not that impressed with those figures and wonder what is stopping women from making it to those start lines.
Emily Taylor running the David Bray Memorial Race
Race director Mark Cockbain is often calling women to enter his races; he's lucky to have a couple per ultra event. Perhaps women are put off by the lack of support available, lack of previous female finishers or maybe we feel that we aren't as able to plan big ultra events into our calendars so easily due to having too many other commitments that have to come first. Whatever the reason, I'm intrigued and would love to know how we can achieve somewhere nearer to a balanced gender startline in the near future.
Lyndsey Killian running the Upton Ultra
Please don't mistake this celebration of women as a criticism of men; I really am all for them. In fact, my greatest accomplishments have been encouraged and supported by my man. Yes, the training and running itself was all me but when you're part of a team, everything is so much easier and just runs like a dream. Have I ever been underestimated by men? Yes. Does it make me want to avoid the trails? Quite the opposite, I'm determined to prove their stereotypes wrong. To play devil's advocate, I imagine that lots of men have been stereotyped by the same 'experienced' runners too.
A final thought? Hit the trails, have fun and maybe sign up to that race you've been considering. Continue to be your strong, beautiful self and celebrate all the other women that are doing the same - remember just because she's shining brightly, it won't dull your sparkle.
About The Author
New to the Harrier Content Creator team, you'll find Sarah Perry on the trails or in the hills with her partner Luke and dog Murphy. Her obsession with ultra running led her to complete many events in the past including Wainwright's Coast to Coast, for which she holds the women's FKT. She loves to run to explore and is looking forward to getting out on more of the UK's trails in the coming months and years.