Two things happened last week which made us all cheer (and swear a little too) at Girls Run the World HQ.
Firstly, Jasmin Paris became the first woman to win Britain’s most brutal race, The Spine Race, beating the the overall course record by 12 hours.
If you don’t know much about this race, here’s some facts; it’s 268 miles taking in the Pennine Way and has over 37,000 feet of climbing and you have to carry your own kit.
It took Jasmin 83 hours, 12 minutes and 23 seconds, with just seven hours rest, during which she also breastfed her 14 month old daughter Rowan.
It is one of the most outstanding achievements in female ultra running, even more impressive when you consider the fact that Jasmin is not a pro runner. While she is sponsored by Inov-8, she works as a vet and is currently studying for a PhD.
Reading this, you are probably wowed by her achievement but may also be thinking, ‘I could never do that.’ But to our minds, she’s an everywoman.
She fits training in around her lifestyle, and entered the race as a way of gaining motivation and inspiration after having a baby.
‘Maybe as a consequence of contentment, my motivation to train took a definite nose dive,’ she said. ‘I found it harder and harder to leave my bed for the cold darkness outside, and realised that I needed a new focus.’
And how did she manage the training? Like most of us. Juggling all the demands on our time.
‘A lot of running has taken place really early in the morning so that’s kind of the how I squeeze it in and still balance it with spending time with my daughter.’
Jasmin is indicative of the new wave of female runners who have the confidence to aim high, set their goals and work towards them.
And the other news that showed that female runners are now demanding more and believing in their ability is the response that Ironman UK received when they launched IronGirl UK, a 5km evening ‘fun run’ last week.
In a statement to announce the event they said: ‘This particular event opens up the Ironman weekend to even more people – not everyone wants to do an Ironman but some might quite fancy a 5k run with their friends.‘
It caused outrage across the UK, amongst runners including ultra runner Susie Chan. One female runner responded on the organiser’s event Facebook page:
‘On a day a woman has not only won, but beaten the course record, in the MIXED Spine race, you decide we are only good for 5ks? This woman had a baby 14 months ago and was pumping milk at rest stops by the way.’
Other, such as Jackie Hassan Twitter poked fun with this comment: “Ooh fantastic! Can I stop half way to do some knitting and put my husbands dinner on? I may need to redo my hair ribbons and make up too! Absolutely shocking concept. Sort it out.’
And they did. Kind of, rebranding it as a 5km evening run for everyone.
But this notion that women are only capable of a ‘fun run’ and that we don’t like a challenge is endemic amongst many race organisers. Just take a look at Rat Race UK’s event Girls Get Fizzical.
A 5km or 10km race with ‘top flight’ obstacles, which judging by their website includes wading through soft balls like at a baby’s soft play area. But hey, that’s alright because you can finish with a glass of Prosecco. God forbid we might actually want to race for the challenge and sense of achievement.
Thankfully, things are beginning to change. Maverick Races for instance are doing their bit by having a female trail running division to help encourage more women to hit the trails.
And it’s why we launched our virtual Queens of Speed Challenge this month, inviting women to become the best runners they can be with our online training to improve speed over the month of January.
But as female runners we can do more and make our voices heard by using our feet, and running in the kind of events that challenge and help empower us while inspiring other women to participate.
Jasmin Paris is an inspiration to us all and illustrates exactly what you can achieve if you define your goals, take ownership and work towards them.
(Psst. And as the temperature drops around the UK, it might be worth knowing what Jasmin wore in her race, which can see lows of -20 Celsius and 45 mph winds – it was the Inov-8 Long Sleeve Half Zip Mid-layer, £55 under the Inov-8 AT/C Protec-Shell Waterproof Jacket, £270.)