Yesterday, more than three hundred women of all shapes and sizes, of differing motivations and abilities, congregated in the picturesque Scottish town of Crieff. They had entered the ‘Women Run Strong’ event, an annual ladies-only running event with a difference.
What awaited them was a mouth-watering spread of activities. First up, they were greeted at the luxurious Crieff Hydro four-star hotel where registration took place. These ladies had already signed up for their preferred distances, everything from five to ten to fifteen kilometres, depending on how long an outing they wished. Many women were stepping up to a distance they had never done before. I met Maria, who flown in from Norway especially for event, and who was preparing to take on the 10k. Having never run as far as this in her life, she was nervous to say the least.
What made these routes even more special was that fact that they were all on trails. Many of these women had only run on tarmaced roads beforehand, so this was a unique opportunity to run in a place and on a terrain that had been illusive to them up to then. Many women in particular can be fearful of trails, of taking the wrong turn and getting horribly lost, of being unable to cope with the lung-busting uphills and terrifying downhills. This Women Run Strong event, however, specifically catered for these ladies, taking the fear out of trail running for the day. The organisers marked the course to within an inch of its life and had marshalls every hundred metres to provide support as well as a continuous supply of jelly babies.
The event was even more relaxed due to the fact that it was not a race. There were no podium prizes, just medals and plentiful prosecco as you crossed the finish line to the sound of a Scottish bagpiper.
The Women Run Strong team also tried to make this a full day of inspiration. I was invited to speak before the runs started together with Lucja Leonard, an incredible ultra runner who has completed the Marathon de Sables amongst other endurance events. I spoke about the challenges and joys of juggling motherhood with training and adventure racing, as written down in great detail in my book, Bump, Bike and Baby. I was privileged to have another amazing runner, Jo Cowper of Trailfest Scotland putting me through my paces.
I joined in the 15k route and enjoyed the jog around. The nice thing about the route was that it involved three loops that often meant you criss-crossed paths with the 5k and 10k runners. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the course, even if the uphills were slightly steep and the downhills a bit scary. Incredibly, everyone conquered the courses, even though so many were doubtful that this was even feasible before they started.
The sense of accomplishment was palpable crossing the finish line. Everyone was so proud of their achievements, none more so that than the race organiser, Avril Mahon, who had planned everything down to the finest detail. I was whisked off to a room full of masseurs for an enjoyable rub down. Others wandered off to the spa and pool for a relaxing afternoon. Lunch was superb, served in a magnificent ballroom complete with balloons and chandeliers. But the greatest part was seeing the smiles and hearing the complements of the three hundred women, who were already asking where they could sign up for next year’s event.