It was the book, Born to Run, when I fully appreciated the female runner and her raw drive to not only out distance the women in the field, but to crush the male species … amped up with all its testosterone, ego and physical arrogance. Personally, I was inspired, you may say, by others around me (who shall be nameless), constantly chanting in my head, whatever you do, don’t lose to a “girl.” While I may have done ok in my 20s and 30s against the opposite sex, I would need a few more digits to count the number of times a woman “flew” by me on the race course. Ironically, my 5K today was led by a woman who wanted nothing more than to crush, even embarrass the two men who jumped out at the start with her. Fortunately for us, her name was not Paula Radcliff (who at one time held the world’s best marathon at 2:15) or worse yet, Ann Trason, the 33-year-old community college science teacher from California. Ann consumed miles like the average American consumes french fries — fast and in vast quantities. And just when you think their finished, they go back for more. It was not uncommon for Ann to get up early on a Saturday and run 20 miles, then relax for breakfast and head back out for 20 more. After a full day of work around the house, she would finish off the day with 15 more miles. Ann defined and elevated the sport of ultramarathons for women, lifting the gender barrier forever.
Her real proving ground was the Leadville 100, one of the most grueling races in the world … not to mention resting atop the highest point in the U.S. When Ann was recruited to run, it was for a unique mission. Go up against the growing legend of the Tarahumara, the distant tribe that inspired Americans to shuck their Nike waffles (sorry Bill) for the barefoot running movement. The year before Ann jumped into the theatrics of a race that saved a town, the Tarahumara had made their second attempt at a U.S. event. The first one didn’t fare so well because no one told them they could stop and grab a bite to eat on the side of the road. In their second year, they lead the race and finished in the top two positions, breaking the course record.
The year Ann Trason showed up, she would go up against five Tarahumara and she would do all that she could to stay close in the beginning even if that meant an eight-minute pace for 100 miles. At mile 13.5, the Tarahumara led with a pace of 1:55. At 23.5 miles, they were hitting 3:20. While two Tarahumara led, Juan Herrera and Martimano Cervantes, Ann managed to pass the rest of the field and move into third. At mile 40, Ann took the lead. Last year’s winner took seven hours, 12 minutes to reach that point. Ann did it in less than six. No woman had ever led at this point. Ann hit the 55 mile mark at 12:05 pm, nearly two hours ahead of last year’s leader. At mile 72, Ann had nearly doubled her lead. She was 22 minutes ahead with just 28 miles to go. She continued on, leading with 10 miles to go along a rolling dirt trail.
Her quest thus far should be enough to make a believer out of anyone. Women are bad x^%@%&* on the run. I’m convinced. So as we head into the Ragnar Relay in just three months, I’m feeling good about our mixed team of three women and …. three men. I just hope there aren’t many all female teams. That would suck.