Trail running as a sport attracts a unique group of people. This is particularly true when you start looking at the ultrarunning community. Training for this sport requires a lot of love, time, and mental strength. With that comes some very strong willed and determined people. Though not everyone that I run with themselves runs ultra distances, they are certainly all a piece of the community. I run with an amazing group called the Mud Babes. They are pacers, crew, volunteers, support systems, and runners themselves. Not surprisingly, they’re all pretty amazing people in general. They are all multitalented individuals who are incredibly hard working, often business owners, or entrepreneurs who bring so much to the community in so many different ways. That being said, it can feel hard to be human amongst a group that seems so superhuman.
I had two female friends this week simultaneously write posts about how self-conscious they are about their bodies, particularly their thighs. These are women who are incredibly strong runners, moms, and people that I admire. It reminded me of an article that I read in Ultrarunning Magazine women’s edition this year where various elite female runners were talking about personal body image. Specifically I thought of Stephanie Howe discussing her thighs. It takes a lot of power to run ultras, and though there are lean trail runners, you typically don’t see the same incredibly lean runners on the trails that you see leading the front of road races. As women, it can be easy to get caught up focusing on personal body image. I do it all the time.
Even with the thighs required to power you through the trails, the trails themselves have a lot to say about how your runs go. No matter how strong or how well trained you are, you still have to take what the day gives you. It can be incredibly difficult when a race doesn’t go your way. Not finishing (DNF) is a very real possibility in this sport. Time cutoffs can be tight, and weather can be unforgiving. Not finishing a race can feel so disappointing after all of the time and training put in, as well as finishing well past a goal time. We present ourselves with huge challenges by entering trail races, and I find myself often asking for the opportunity to be humbled.
I spend my time amongst a pretty incredible group of people who I watch exhibit strength and confidence so consistently that it’s easy to forget that we’re all coming at this as a human. We all have something that we’re mentally struggling with, and we all have bad running days. It’s just that this sport requires so much mental strength that it’s easy not to let any of that show. So when I struggle, I feel weak; and I want to keep that hidden. When I’m feeling strong, it’s easy to see personal growth. It’s easy to remember how far I’ve come and how much I’m training. When those lower points hit it’s harder to remember those things. I’ve run more miles so far in the first quarter of this year than I did my entire first year of running. I am stronger, though my humanness can occasionally cause me to forget. So I’m taking these thighs up some mountains this summer, preparing to be humbled, and preparing to be strong.
Thanks to all of the other humans that share life with me.