The Trail Sisters’s 2016 In Review

The Trail Sisters review the progress of women’s trail and ultrarunning in 2016.

By on December 28, 2016 | Comments

[Editor’s Note: This month’s Trail Sisters article is written by Gina Lucrezi.]

It’s just about year’s end and nostalgic memories of the past 365 days are front and center in our minds. What are you thankful for? What moments from this year will stick with you forever? What new relationships have you made?

As I review my own year, I ask myself these same questions. I think about my racing, my injury, my travels, my friends, and more. But most of all, I think about the trail running community.

Being a social butterfly, spending oodles of time on Instagram, and managing two trail running teams, I try to keep my finger on the pulse of the running community. I monitor what’s trending, what’s causing conflict, who is dating who, you name it. One thing that stands out to me about 2016 is the continued increasing participation in and awareness of women’s trail and ultrarunning. In that vein, I thought we’d use the Trail Sisters’s final 2016 article to recap what’s happened this year for women in our sport.

Let’s start with the Hardrock 100! This is one of the most talked-about 100-mile races out there because of its remote and rugged route, its 33,000-plus-feet of climbing, its average altitude of 11,000 feet, and its limited number of entries awarded via a lottery. Historically, Hardrock is a male-dominated race, in terms of the ratio of men versus women entering the lottery and gaining entry into the race. This year, more women jumped in the ring and put their names in the lottery ‘hat!’ There are still more men applying to the lottery than women, but to see the increase in women’s lottery entries is great. It’s encouraging to know women are seeking out and embracing more extreme events.

Another event that turned heads this year was UTMB. In years past, the top-10 male and top-five female finishers were recognized in the race’s award ceremony. This year and for the first time, the race organization recognized the top-10 females. UTMB is one of the most notable 100-mile races in the world, so it’s great to see them honoring women and men equally.

Let’s shift gears and focus on the actual participants. There have been some notable newcomers to the sport! Young gun Clare Gallagher won her debut 100 miler, the Leadville Trail 100 Mile. Clare’s finishing time was actually the second-fastest female time in race history and on all versions of the course. Though she isn’t quite new to the ultra scene, Courtney Dauwalter had a breakout year, too. Courtney won the Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile, set a women’s course record and won overall at the Javelina Jundred 100k, and ran 147.49 miles to win overall at the Desert Solstice’s 24-hour track event. Swedish superstar Ida Nilsson is another name you should know. Originally a stellar track-and-field stud turned skimo and mountain racer, 2016 was Ida’s breakout year in trail running. She won the Transvulcania Ultramarathon (interview), Mont Blanc Marathon, The Rut 50k, and The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships (interview).

These women are outstanding athletes but until their major wins this year, they were considered dark horses as compared to some of our sport’s ‘usual suspects.’ When we saw all-star names on an UltraSignup entry list in 2016, women such as Kaci Lickteig, Magda Boulet, Caroline Chaverot, Megan Kimmel, Andrea Huser, and Ruth Croft, you knew what expect. These are all incredible women and they each brought their ‘A game’ time and again to races this year. It’s so great to see a strong interest in ultrarunning with the younger generation as well as the experienced women getting continued big returns on their hard work, dedication, and longevity.

Women’s-only retreats and training programs is another topic to call out. Though there are already a few existing retreats, for example, Elinor Fish’s Run Wild Retreats, outdoor-recreation giant REI Co-Op supported the Outessa Summits, which were co-founded by Julia Stamps Mallon. These Summits are weekend-long adventures that allow women to experience a variety of sports/activities while enjoying a laid-back social atmosphere with other like-minded women. Aravaipa Running offered a Women’s Ultra Training Program that is four months long and preps ladies to race a 50k at the end of the program. Alicia Vargo put together the training program and shared her knowledge on nutrition. I expect more of these female-friendly camps and programs to pop up in 2017!

Lastly, a new ruling took place this year for the equalization of team sizes and race distances for 2017 and beyond at World Mountain Running Association (WMRA) events. That is, both men and women will have teams of four runners each (three of whom score) and will both be racing the same courses. American Trail Running Association Executive Director and WMRA Treasurer Nancy Hobbs, a long-time driving force in this sport, was among those who were instrumental in lobbying for this ruling by the WMRA’s voting countries.

There are many other amazing female-specific additions and achievements that have happened in our sport this year, and I’m sorry that I cannot list them all. But you should know that women making productive noise in the sport is creating change. I’m incredibly encouraged to witness a continued strong call from the female voice and can’t wait to see this trend continue in 2017!

Call for Comments

  • What other females had major 2016 debuts?
  • What other events made notable female-specific changes?
  • Can you note other forms of progress women made in trail and ultrarunning this year?
  • Last but certainly not least, hi again! We, the Trail Sisters, need your help. What do you want to hear about in the Trail Sisters posts in 2017? What do you want us to look into? What other women do you want to hear from? What would you like to share your thoughts about or hear other women’s thoughts about? What did you talk about on your last long run with other women? Please share your suggestions below. We’re all ears. And thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts this year!
Trail Sisters
Trail Sisters is a group of three women, each with unique opinions, ideas, and attitudes toward all things trail and ultrarunning. Pam Smith is a mom, physician, and lover of running who lives in Oregon. Liza Howard is a mom and 100-mile specialist from Texas. Gina Lucrezi is a Colorado-based short-distance speedster exploring the realms of ultrarunning.