As Tropical John Medinger astutely observed, ultrarunning is a hard sport for everyone – back of the pack, middle of the pack and those at the front – and it is this shared experience of suffering that brings all ultrarunners together and makes our sport so special. This sense of connectedness is what keeps the first finishers of an ultra cheering for the last finishers, and it’s what makes our community so strong. We may all be different, but we are in it together.
Ultrarunning’s ethos of support and acceptance is a beautiful thing. It is something that the world needs more of, especially these days. Accepting, respecting and celebrating our differences is the path to peace, happiness and a future that is sustainable. I am hopeful that we, as well as our country’s leaders, will choose to accept our differences and embrace our connectedness especially in November as we choose new leaders for the journey ahead.
Despite ultrarunning’s culture of community, the fact is that the sport is not racially, ethnically or socio-economically diverse. Participation in our sport can be expensive, and the time required to train and travel to events is a luxury that many people cannot afford. The very nature of the sport appeals to high achieving people who like big challenges and have the confidence and resources to take them on – which selects for a unique group of people.
Therefore, it is all the more important that the ultrarunning community remain open-minded and supportive of diversity among its participants, with the goal that one day participation will be possible for a more diverse population and thereby present a demographic profile that better reflects all members of our society.
Gender is one of the fundamental differences among people, and our sport has made great progress in moving toward gender balance. In 1990 women represented roughly 16.5% of all ultra finishes, and this year that number is 33%. There’s still work to be done to achieve parity, but progress is being made.
In this issue, we shine the light on women and ultrarunning, with numerous articles and features on the topic. Whatever one’s gender or opinion surrounding this issue, a key to progress is to remain open to others’ opinions and points of view, especially those with whom we may not agree. In fact, that is the only way to begin to learn and grow.
Oppression of women has a long history in our society. Sadly it continues to this day –
in harsh forms on other continents – and, in more subtle but still damaging ways in North America. Even though we have anatomical differences, the unequivocal fact is that women are as complex, capable and powerful as men. Sure there are archetypal feminine traits, just as there are those that register as masculine. Think tenderness and ferocity. But, if we can remember that these traits are universal and not limited to gender, we can begin to bridge the stereotypes that have limited us in the past. One of the most powerful things my mom ever taught me was that the most complete and actualized people are those who embrace and find balance in both their feminine and masculine characteristics.
We hope that the theme of this month’s issue sparks some new thinking and gives our readers more knowledge, perspective and insight on women in ultrarunning, and beyond. Check it out and let us know what you think.
May your every run be a great one.