To celebrate March as “Women's History Month” and as the month that hosts International Women's Day, I decided to write short features on female ultrarunners that inspire me. In the order in which I posted them, which in no way suggests greater or lesser importance of any, below are the features I put together on four amazing ultrarunners who happen to be female. I stopped at only four not for lack of material, but strictly only because of my personal time limitations. There are obviously many other female ultrarunners who have impressive accomplishments and stories that deserve to be told. So if any of the below runners inspire you, I encourage you to seek out further inspiration via blogs and vlogs of other female ultrarunners who are sharing their own story with us all.
To celebrate March as “Women's History Month”, I will be posting what are hopefully inspirational posts of female runners that I find inspiring. To start I dusted off this meme I made a little less than a year ago, just a little late for last year's International Women's Day. None other than Courtney Dauwalter! Keep pushing those boundaries and helping us all learn what is truly humanly possible.
Photo Credit:: Yann Besrest-Butler/Montane Spine Race
The second female ultrarunner to be featured to celebrate March as “Women's History Month” is Jasmin Paris. While in the process of winning outright the 2019 edition of Britain’s brutal 268 mile Spine Race, Paris expressed milk at aid stations for her 14 month old daughter. If that’s not impressive enough, Paris improved the overall course record by over 12 hours with a finishing time of 83:12:23. She is the first female to win the Spine Race outright and she did it definitively. Amazingly, she foresaw the greatest challenge of this race not being the demanding course, but being away from her daughter as she wrote in a pre race blog post “I think the mental battle will probably be my biggest challenge. For one thing, I think I’ll really miss Rowan, who I have only been away from a couple of times for a single night since she was born. On the plus side, I think I’ll have the very best motivation for getting to Kirk Yetholm as quickly as possible!”
Photo from IRunFar.com, “Ann Trason and the 1995 Western States 100”, 1994 Western States 100.
I would be doing a disservice to all of the ultrarunning world and women in general if I failed to include the legendary Ann Trason as a featured female athlete to celebrate March as “Women's History Month” and International Women's Day. Where to begin with Ann Trason and her lengthy list of ultrarunning accomplishments. Let’s start with course records.
6:09:08 – American River 50 mile (1993)
3:59:32 – Cool Canyon Crawl 50K (1993)
7:31:24 – Dick Collins Firetrails 50 mile (1987)
6:13:54 – Hunter Thompson 50 mile
18:06:24 – Leadville Trail 100 women's record (2nd place overall in 1994)
8:55:49 – Miwok 100K Trail Race (2001)
6:43:52 – Quicksilver 50 mile (1992)
7:29:36 – Silver State 50 mile (1994)
7:00:47 – World 100K (1995)
Should we continue to World Records?
50-mile (5:40:18 in 1991)
100K (7:00:47, 1995)
12-Hour (91 miles 1312 yards, 1991)
100-mile (13:47:42, 1991)
If her records don’t impress or inspire you, maybe her persistence will. She DNF’d her first two attempts at running the Western States 100 (1987 and 1988) due to knee problems and dehydration respectively. Rather than giving up, she went back in 1989 and won the race. She went on to win it for the next nine years to achieve an unprecedented 10 year win streak. She won the race for an additional four more consecutive years from 2000-2004. Her course record (17:37:51) set in 1994 stood for 18 years. Did I mention that two of those Western States wins came less than two weeks after winning the ultra competitive 56 mile Comrades Marathon?
Even with all of these accolades, it is likely that many people were introduced to Ann via Christopher mcDougall’s rather unflattering portrayal of her in his book Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. Thankfully in recent years, through the work of content creators such as Billy Yang (see link to podcast/video), the ultrarunning community has painted a more complete picture of who Ann Trason is. If any of this captivates you, follow the links below to learn more about Ann Trason and her amazing ultrarunning accomplishments. Also linked to is my Mines of Spain race report where I tell my account of unknowingly sharing my final aid station stop with Ann Trason debating whether or not I should do a shot of Fireball.
Photo from Candice’s website, Wild Defined (http://www.wilddefined.com/).
The final female athlete to be featured and wrap up my weekly posts to celebrate March as “Women's History Month” and as the month that hosts International Women's Day is Candice Burt. If you haven’t heard of Candice Burt, then you probably haven’t heard of 200 mile races either. Sometimes referred to as the “Queen of 200s”, Candice is making the 200 mile distance a bit more of a standardized ultramarathon distance and probably as mainstream as it has ever been. I don’t say “ever will become” because I believe as much as Candice has already popularized the distance, it will likely gain further popularity in large part thanks to her efforts.
Candice is the Race Director (RD) for and creator of three of what are arguably the most popular 200 or more mile ultramarathons: Tahoe 200, Moab 240, and Bigfoot 200. The bulk majority of all the miles for all three races is made up of primarily a single loop course design, making them a rarity even amongst most 200 mile or more races in the US which tend to rely heavy on multiple loops or repeated out and backs. Candice’s races are a niche category within the niche sport of ultrarunning. However, with her attention to detail, focus on scenic and quality course design, and her intense marketing skills (#200IsTheNew100), Candice has built a following and demand for these types of races.
Maybe her success as a RD is in part due to her broad experience as an accomplished ultrarunner herself. Candice holds the current unsupported Fastest Known Times (FKTs) for two routes: the Wonderland Trail (95 miles) and the Trans-Zion (48 miles). Additionally, with four HURT 100 finishes (4th F, 2nd F, 2nd F, and 3rd F) amongst a slew of other impressive ultra finishes on her Ultrasignup, there is ample evidence that not only does Candice know how to direct ultras, she also knows how to run them.