Happy International Women’s Day! Let’s Recognize Some Amazing Female Athletes, Shall We?

It’s International Women’s Day (i.e. my favorite holiday)!

I realize that many of you might not even know that this day of recognition exists, but it’s been on my radar for a very long time now and I always celebrate, even if only introspectively.  Professionally, I’ve worked as an advocate for survivors of domestic violence (largely gender-based violence) for many years.  Personally, I’ve been an all-around advocate for gender equality for as long as I can remember.  So March 8th always feels like a holiday to me – a day to celebrate and honor my people.

I’ve been deeply privileged to know a great many incredible women throughout my life and I’ve been inspired by thousands more that I’ve never met in person.  With that said, it’s only been over the last few years since I started running that I’ve truly connected with finding inspiration in women athletes.

Nike Photo: Shalane Flanagan & Kara Goucher

Nike Photo: Shalane Flanagan & Kara Goucher

Becoming a runner – a female runner – has brought so much into my life and I am continuously inspired by those women who have battled hard to be respected in the world of athletics, those who have demanded resources and support for athletes of all genders, and those who have simply trail-blazed the way for the rest of us – proving with their actions what women were capable of before anyone would listen to their words.  (Let us not forget that not all that long ago people believed running a marathon could cause a woman’s uterus to fall out!)

In honor of International Women’s Day and female athletes everywhere who are getting it done, whether it be alone at 6am on their local trails or in front of crowds full of people, I thought I’d take a minute to recognize a few of my personal favorite female runners who inspire me on a regular basis.

  1. Kathrine Switzer – I can’t put up even a brief list like this without mentioning the first woman to ever (officially) run in Boston.  And that, of course, doesn’t even begin to cover everything she has done for female athletes since!
  2. Shalane Flanagan – One of my current favorite marathoners.  I am so excited to see what she’s going do at Boston this year and I’m still hopeful that one day I’ll get to see her around Portland.  I’m always on the look-out!
  3. Kara Goucher – My other current favorite marathoner.  We miss you in PDX, Kara!
  4. Lauren Fleshman – I have so much darn appreciation for Lauren.  What she’s doing in terms of being a strong, proud athlete and representing women in the sport is amazing.  Her ‘Keeping it Real‘ project?  So awesome.  Picky Bars?  Fantastic.  Her newish partnership with Oiselle?  Can’t get enough of it.
  5. Deena Kastor – If someone were to ask me who I wanted to be when I ‘grow up’, my answer might very well be Deena.
  6. Cami Ostman – Cami is not a professional runner like the others listed above, but she is a force to be reckoned with as an athlete, a writer, and an all-around inspiring human being.  Her book Second Wind is a favorite of mine.
  7. Rachel Toor – An ultrarunner and writer that seems to always know how to really speak the truth about what it’s like to be a runner and a woman.  Her book Personal Record is a great read and I always look forward to her articles in Running Times.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Book Review: The Longest Race by Ed Ayers (Psst . . . It’s A Must Read!)

Between books, blogs, magazines, and other miscellaneous articles and essays, I do a lot of reading.  Most of what I read is enjoyable, informative, and worthwhile.  Every so often, though, I am fortunate enough to pick up exactly the right thing at precisely the right time and I read something that just truly resonates with me – something that I know has a meaningful and personal lesson to teach me.  Such was the case with The Longest Race by Ed Ayers.

The Longest Race - Own Photo 2To say that I’ve been on a bit of a personal journey over the last year or two of my life is putting it somewhat mildly (though, aren’t we all in one way or another?).  So much of what I’ve been pondering, exploring, and learning was reflected back at me in Ayers’ book and so many of the values that he holds and articulates in his writing echo my own.  Ayers writes with a profound respect for the sport of running, humankind, animalkind, and the planet as a whole and it is a beautiful thing to read.

The story he tells is of his experience at the 2001 JFK 50-mile ultra-marathon, and this story alone makes for a wonderful read.  As a runner myself (though not an ultra-runner by a long shot), I was drawn in by the tale of endurance.  I certainly learned a bit about running from Ayers and will be applying my new education to my own training.  But, to say that this is a book that is solely about running would be to ignore many of the larger themes in the book.

The Longest Race offers us a glimpse into Ayers’ mind and it is a brilliant place to explore.  His grasp of history, science, and the human condition is evident as he reflects on the past, as it is so boldly laid out before him on the JFK course, as well as on the future, as he considers deeply the connections between people, animals, the environment, and the sustainability of all three.  Ayers also touches here and there on topics such as patience, anxiety, nutrition, and relationships both within the running community and outside of it.

This is an extraordinary tale that I will be reading again.  There were several moments in the book where I was struck by a certain importance of what I was reading to my own current place in life.  I have more to learn from Ayers’ story and I would be willing to make a bet that others do too.