It’s no shocker that running as a woman can really suck. There are the unrealistic body images to live up to, menstrual cramp pains and mid-race hygiene product changes, bladder leaks, childbirth recovery, double sports bras to keep the girls in check, untameable tangled hair, the dreaded camel toe, objectifying comments by onlookers, and the paralyzing fear of running alone.
After two decades of running my mother still worries that I’ll get murdered in the bushes on one of my trail runs. She calls to ask if I heard about some attack in some park somewhere. She’ll ask if I’ve bought pepper spray yet. She’ll remind me to always let someone know when and where I’m running (maybe I’ll actually start doing this one and see how she likes being called thrice a day with running updates). But of course she’s not wrong.
When I first moved to Seattle I went on an early morning run at Cougar Mountain while it was dark and pouring rain. I had an 18-mile loop planned out but after 6 miles of sobbing anxiety, I turned around and sprinted back to the car. On the rare occasion I’ve decided to run home late at night, I’ve put my fiance on speaker and had him talk to me while I race the few miles to safety. But, there are already plenty of articles about the toils of running as a woman, so enough about that.
Running encourages me to respect myself. I have learned the importance of good health, not for looks but for strength. I have learned to listen to my body when it wants to push, when it wants to rest, when it wants to heal. It has helped me realize that I feel most beautiful when I am doing good, not looking good. My legs aren’t trunks that I can’t squeeze into skinny jeans, but rather muscles that power me up mountains.
Running has forced me to step out of comfort zones, physically and socially; to assert myself in environments dominated by competitive, loud men. Running has given me a limitless perspective, allowing me to focus on the possible rather than the impossible. Running has taken me through the outbacks of Malawi, the deserts of Mongolia, and the mountains of Washington. Perhaps most importantly, running has connected me with other self-disciplined, self-confident, self-loving women.
I truly believe that running has the power to heal the damage of historical oppression by creating a space where everyone belongs. There is still a lot of work to be done in making running, in particular trail running, inclusive of other marginalized groups, but at least as a [white] woman I have found a place of empowerment.
If you, too, want to connect with incredible female runners in the community, then check out these Seattle-area resources that can help you find your power:
—Oiselle: A local, staple running store that offers group runs. By women, for women.
—Trail Sisters: Join the Seattle chapter on Facebook to learn about upcoming Meetups.
—Steidl Running: Operated by local legend Trisha Steidl, this coaching service takes your running to the next level. Her upcoming seminars on September 17th and October 4th are part of a two-part series on Women’s Running.
—Fleet Feet Seattle: Their storefront(s) offers weekly runs and a fall training program led by local ultrarunner Lindie Gardner.
—Aspire Adventure Running: They have SWEET scholarship opportunities for female trail runners.
Amie Pendleton-Knoll grew up as a competitive gymnast, but after a back fracture and a year of rest she turned to high school cross country and the rest is history! She has completed 13 marathons, a dozen halfs, and a handful of ultras. Amie is currently working on her MSW and, when not studying or running, is drinking a red ale and watching True Crime.