Let's play some running jeopardy.
Q: The first woman to be the overall winner at the Badwater Ultramarathon – a 135 mile race across Death Valley, in the middle of summer, with a few mountains climbs thrown in, just for fun. Oh, and she won it 2 years in a row.
A: Who is Pam Reed?!
I just finished reading her 2006 book, The Extra Mile. Quick and fun, it reads much like an autobiography. Her personality really comes through and she gets very personal – through her long battle with anorexia nervosa, marriages, children and how she kept running a part of her life even when it seemed like she was sacrificing so much else.
Many of the stories shed light on the unsurprising fact that men do not like to be “chicked” (i.e., passed by a woman) and that a woman has to accomplish far more to be taken seriously as a competitor, relative to what a male runner would have to achieve. Why? Did I mention men don’t like to be chicked?
I really appreciate women like Pam who show how much booty women can kick if they really try.
I’m no feminist, and it’s not like I think women are “oppressed” in the world of sports or something. I just think that athletic achievements of the female gender are way undervalued and underrated. With all the attention to superskinny models and A-list celebrities, I just think young girls could really use some strong, positive role models from the world of sports. But in a face-off with men’s sports (or the Kardashians), it’s easy to guess which way media coverage would go.
Many women never really consider competing against men. It’s becoming a better known fact, however, that in long distances, women seem to have an edge over men, which is why the gap in world records between genders narrows with the length of the race. Pretty cool, right?
Anyway, here are some of the nuggets of wisdom I wanted to highlight from Pam’s book, on how to make it through a really long race:
“No matter how daunting a race might be, I start out trying to convince myself that it’s “obstacle free”. There are always lots of problems if you know where to look for them. And if you can’t find them, you can always create them.” Genius.
“I try to stay away from negative thoughts […] Aside from keeping track of food and drink, my ideal mental state in a race is not thinking about anything.”
“Not liking to run long distances is actually why I’ve been able to run 100-mile races […] I do it 1 mile at a time. In my own mind, I’m not really running 100 miles. I’m running 1 mile 100 times.” (I usually break marathons down into 5-k or 10-k distances...that's worked pretty well so far)
Quoting the race director of the Leadville Trail 100: “You are better than you think you are, and you can do more than you think you can.” Amen.
As I prepare for my first ultras this year, I’m pretty darn excited, but super nervous at the same time. But I’m also confident that I can do it, because that’s what I have decided. Period.
Random curious fact: Speaking of period, Pam also describes a ‘funny’ but less than pleasant experience whereby she got her period at mile 90 of the Badwater race. She kept going and still finished fourth overall, the second woman, though she wasn’t having such a great race (oh I wonder why). This lady’s a tough cookie to crack.
I’m sure that by now you want to do something to improve athletic opportunities for girls & encourage young ones to get off the couch and get movin’. You can have a tremendous impact by supporting the Women’s Sports Foundation. They’re the largest charity in the US to do just that and I will be running my butt off for 52.4 miles (a double of the official marathon) on July 29th in San Francisco to support them. As of today, I need to raise $343 more to meet my fundraising target so instead of buying me a drink, please sponsor my run. Drop some money, any amount in my virtual bucket, won’t you? Check out the link on the right or click here to donate. Thank you. Gracias. Koszonom. Merci. Danke. Grazie.