Movement

Why Women are Natural Ultrarunners

It was 50 years ago that the first woman officially crossed the finish line of a marathon. Her name is Kathrine Switzer and she’s since gone on to win marathons, write books, and pave the way for what she calls “a social revolution of women’s running.” Today, she notes, there are more female runners in the USA and Canada than male runners.

“This is not necessarily about getting faster, thinner, or becoming elite, it’s about empowerment, self-esteem, fearlessness and about the fact that women are actually physically suited for endurance and stamina events,” says Switzer.

Her non-profit, 261 Fearless, is the embodiment of this philosophy. It’s a global community of women – be they walkers or runners – who have a shared love for “putting one foot in front of the other.”

But, in our 21st century lives where running 26.2 miles as a woman – as a human being – almost seems “normal,” it begs the question: what’s next? Switzer says the future of women’s running is all about ultramarathons. “Women are superior to men when the distance is long enough,” says Switzer.

"Women are superior to men when the distance is long enough. Kathrine Switzer"

“What is emerging at last are events that showcase and give opportunities to this basic attribute. For thousands of years, sports have been about men’s speed, power and strength. Now we are seeing that sports are also about balance, flexibility, endurance and stamina – women’s attributes,” says Switzer.

“Already we see women winning 100-milers, 24-hour runs, six-day events outright. This is a great time to be a creative female athlete, to create and organize these events,” she says. “I also think this is an ideal time for us to consider pairing our endurance with men’s speed and forming some kind of event, like a relay, or partnership event.”

Why Women are Natural UltrarunnersBut, running beyond a 26.2 distance is seriously intense. “Proper preparation is absolutely necessary for anyone, even the most fit athletes, as it is a taxing amount of time on your body,” warns Kerry Greer, an expert with EXOS. “If you don’t properly prepare, you have a high risk of injury.” Here, two questions to ask yourself before signing up.

1. DO YOU HAVE THE TIME?

“It is an endurance race just like a marathon so many of the same things hold true except your training regimen should be much longer time-wise,” says Greer. So, the duration of your training cycle (the months you train leading up to the race) will be longer as will the time you put in each week during that training cycle. “The miles in an ultramarathon can be very taxing on your body so proper training and recovery are the most important things,” Greer adds.

2. DO YOU HAVE ENOUGH EXPERIENCE?

“An ultramarathon takes experience – it isn’t just something you can get up and decide to do,” says Greer. “First, consider running a couple marathons to at least understand where you are currently and assess your endurance. This will give you a starting point as to where you are compared to where you need to be.”