Everyone should be able to run with kunanyi
4 April 2023Canadian ultrarunner and human rights lawyer Stephanie Case once wrote: “we should not have to choose between being a badass ultrarunner and a badass mom".
And yet women have been forced to choose because trail running events have traditionally failed to include appropriate policies for pregnant women.
But in 2023, Hobart’s own kunanyi Mountain Run became one of the first trail run events to do so in Australia and globally.
“Women should be able to enter events like ours with confidence, even if they’re planning to have a baby,” kunanyi Mountain Run’s founder and Run Director Lincoln Quilliam said.
Women who are, or fall pregnant, prior to race day are able to defer their entry in any of kMR’srun events, for up to three years and partners will also be able to defer for one if the birth is imminent.
Elite trail runner and coach Kellie Emmerson from Victoria was pregnant when she competed in kMR2022; choosing the shorter Vertical Kilometre event (5km but 1000m elevation).
“Many major events have been slow to introduce pregnancy deferrals, and many that have, only allow for a year. We don't want women returning to running or long distance when they're not yet ready - many rush into it just because they have an entry to a race and don't want to miss out,” she said.
“Childbirth has a profound impact on your body, let alone juggling life to train with kids. Women need time to find their new normal and rebuild their conditioning and aerobic capacity in a gradual, individual way.
“I think it's great that kMR are taking a proactive approach to supporting women. The more events that get on board with this, the greater chance of the gender imbalance reducing,” Kellie said.
“Around 40 per cent of our kMRrunners are women, which is a really positive number when know globally the average is a lot less. But there’s always more to be done,” Lincoln said.
Advocates argue that policies, such as allowing women to defer their entry if they fall pregnant, would help encourage more women to run or stay in the sport – which is one of the world’s fastest growing sports.
The sport’s governing body, the International Trail Running Association found that women made up just 23 per cent of all participants in races held across the globe between 2013 and 2019. But it also found there had been tremendous growth in that period, with the number of women doubling in that same period (from 13 per cent to 26 per cent).
Queensland trail and ultra-runner Meagan Brown, whocompeted in the kMR’s 66km Ultra Solo Marathon in 2023 andhas represented Australia in trail running, has been actively working to increase female participation in the sport.
She set up the Instagram community, Queensland Trail Queens, out of frustration and anger with the lack of and inconsistent coverage between men and women.
“I often would sign up to races and then not go as I found it too intimidating. There were never many other women there and I felt a bit like the odd one out. I have since received so much from the sport - lifelong friendships, increased confidence, a career, and I want other women to experience the positives and have one less barrier,” she said.
“It's exciting that Lincoln and the team want change and are making it happen,” she said.
Levelling the start line
We invite faster women to move to the front, and ask men to make way for them. We mix up the photos we use! We aim to use as many women in our social media, website and other marketing material because we know you “can’t be what you don’t see”.
Making things equal
We always have had, and always will, have equal prize money for men and women. We also provide sanitary products at our runHub and aidstations out on course.
World-class athlete and run coach Isobel Rossisa fan of that initiative, after having her own first-hand experience in a 100-mile event in Victoria several years ago.
“I only had 20 minutes to get to the start line [after missing my alarm] and I found I had got my period overnight. I had one tampon and that was it,” she said.
“We were up at Falls Creek in November, so no shops were open, especially at that time of the day! My crew had to drive for miles to get some. If the race had stocked some at aid stations, I would have been fine.”
“I also think it is long overdue that races are providing equal prize money. I personally don’t think women need to be treated with kid gloves but as equals. We don’t need ‘special’ treatment per se, just the same treatment as the men.”