If you’d told me when I started running with Parkdale Roadrunners, in late 2013, that in 3 years I’d be running an ultramarathon, I would have laughed in your face. Even in early spring of last year, I still had no desire to run anything further than a 10k. Then after a series of light peer pressure long runs, I made the commitment to run a half marathon, and then a marathon. During part of my marathon training, I was visiting the West Coast of BC, and I found that I could easily cover a 25k distance without additional water and fuel, while feeling energized the entire way. This was in sharp contrast to my long runs on city streets in Toronto, where I felt like my shoes were filled with bricks, and fuel and water were always lacking. Nature definitely put a bounce in my step.
I also found more and more runner friends from the West Coast posting trail runs, and found myself feeling jealous that they were spending so much time zipping through the forests and mountains.
Through the magic of Instagram’s discovery function, I also stumbled across Sorrell Walsh’s account. She’s an English runner who has become an ambassador for the #ultra5050 movement, aimed at achieving gender parity in ultramarathons. Specifically, I found myself incredibly inspired by her own group WMN RUN 100, which started as a platform to increase women’s registration in The Race to the Stones. Seeing photos of the rolling countryside in this race, and of women laughing and supporting each other over such a great distance, made me think for the first time that I wanted to be one of those women. Someday.
Then a few months ago, a fellow runner from Parkdale mentioned The North Face Endurance Challenge on Slack. I thought, “If she can do it, I can do it.” I enlisted three other women to join, and it was finally a plan. I had a lady-crew together, and we were going to run our first ultramarathon. Then, one-by-one, these women had to drop out for various reasons; including the fact that we had all been training for the Cabot Trail Relay, which fell smack in the middle of what should have been our ultra training plan. I was a little dismayed, and was about to drop out myself, when my cross-training coach Jenny McConnell (Academy of Lions & Relay Collective) decided it was time to give me the reality check that I needed to stick to it. “You’re not as behind as you think on training. And you have the time. You’re strong enough to do this, and if you don’t do it now, then when?”
So there you have it – the next 7 weeks were filled with long runs, hill sprints, adventures in eating real food while running, experimentation with packs and hydration, and lots and lots of reading. And now it’s finally here. I still don’t know what to expect. I could have had a longer training plan, and I could have made it out of the city for more practice runs on real trails, but it is what it is. I may not be finish fast, but I am going to finish strong. And I am going to do my part to add to the #ultra5050 movement. Forty years ago, no one believed that a woman could even run a marathon distance, and just look us now.