By Tara Holland
I’ve been an endurance runner for almost 30 years, and for the majority of that time I have been predominantly a solo runner. Sure, I’ve run on teams, and with the odd training partner, but never until I moved to BC and the trails have I had such a solid group of trail sisters. I now am lucky to be friends with numerous amazing women, any of whom I can run with on any given day, and it has occurred to me countless times how much of a blessing that really is (refer to point #3 below). Here’s my attempt to put that gratitude into a list of why having Trail Sisters is the best, and why you should find your own asap:
I spend more “quality time” with these women than anyone else in my life, aside from my partner. Off the trails, we all juggle so many things, and our lives sometimes seem like freight trains rushing through the day (and we’re not always sure if we’re the conductor). But when you’re running in the wilderness for hours on end, you need to be completely present. There are no distractions; it’s just you, your friends, and the trail underfoot. Long runs are the times when I have the best, most intimate conversations – and there is an understanding that what’s said on the trail, stays on the trail (kind of like Vegas, but with more mud). I’ve had first runs with women during which I’ve told them more about my life than people who have known me for years. I think it’s a combination of endorphins, vulnerability, and the knowledge that I can completely trust these girls.
All The Things
Speaking of conversations, running with women means that you can talk about all the things (nod to my friend Tory who coined this term). Periods, pregnancy, parenting, poop (why do these all start with “p”?), sexual health, mental health, physical health, food, food, food…you name it. The one thing the conversation never is with my trail sisters? Negative. Sure, there is some venting at times, but one of the things I love about these women is that they are an overwhelmingly positive group of humans.
Whether it’s a tough patch in the run or in life, we have each other’s backs. In my pack of trail sisters, we refer to each other as “unicorns” – it sounds cutesy, but it symbolizes this kind of women supporting women relationship that we have. Also, apparently a group of unicorns is called a blessing (Google it), which is just so appropriate. We can enter the same race, and genuinely be happy for each other’s accomplishments, no matter who finishes first/last. I’ve had many runs in which either one of my friends or me has a low point, and we just help each other through it, usually with a combination of humour and force-feeding snacks. I’m injured right now, and have had friends call me up to do yoga, bike rides and kayak excursions, and even give me a massage. When my father passed away last summer, my trail sisters got me a giant stuffed unicorn. A blessing, indeed.
Comfort Zone Destroyers
Trail sisters have a way of pushing you outside of your comfort zone, but at the same time holding your hand to help you to get there. Since I started running with these women, my mountain running has improved by leaps and bounds (quite literally; I can now leap and bound across things that I used to crawl across while weeping softly). This is thanks to them patiently helping me through my fear of heights and exposure.
Social Time is Trail Time
In some ways, trail sisters are really no different than other girlfriends…except that girls’ weekends usually mean things like camping at a trailhead and running 70k around a volcano; or racing or pacing a friend at an ultra. We notice when someone gets new shoes – or a top, shorts, trucker hat, hydration pack, or is sampling new food on the run. On any given run, at least two of us will show up wearing essentially the same outfit. It’s pretty much exactly like when women friends go out on the town – except sweatier, dirtier, and with more peeing in the bushes (hopefully).
If this list sounds familiar to you, then you probably already have your own blessing of Trail Sisters. If it doesn’t – you should find some like minded women and go for a run. I guarantee you won’t regret it.
“Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life” – Amy Poehler