I might be exposing the sorority girl in me, but yes, I have one of those coveted shiny silver Tiffany necklaces. The feeling of opening that beautiful turquoise box, untying that satin ribbon, and seeing what sparkly charm is on the end of the necklace – so awesome.
Confession, I actually have eight of them — don’t judge.
Over the years I have collected these from birthdays, anniversaries and marathons. Yes, I have four of these necklaces from running marathons. The Nike Women’s Marathon and Half Marathon started in 2003 and took place in San Francisco, inspired by Joan Benoit Samuelson who won the first gold medal for Women’s Marathon in 1984. The theme of the Nike race is to bring women together from all levels of running for a weekend of community, running, and of course crossing the finish line. Once you cross the finish line, you are congratulated by San Francisco firefighters and given one of those magnificent turquoise boxes.
There is no shortage of events similar to the Nike Women’s Marathon, popping up all over the country. The explosion and popularity of these yoga and running festivals throughout the country can be overwhelming and expensive — from the Wanderlust Yoga Festival Festival to the Lululemon’s Seawheeze Half Marathon, combining fitness and women-specific events have become a cash cow.
I can only speak from my experiences, but to run a marathon in downtown San Francisco cost me between $1,000 – $1,500 dollars. That included the race entry, airfare, lodging, and meals – but I got that necklace.
I admit it, I successfully fell into their marketing vortex. The excitement of being with all women, running in the City by the Bay, receiving the necklace – they got me. Four times!
But what I remember most about these races, isn’t my necklaces. It’s my friend Jessie who trained with me for months before the events. Jessie was one of my colleagues at Black Diamond, and she quickly turned into a dear friend, but also the best running partner I ever had. We would run together at lunches, weekends, before and after work – you name it — any opportunity to run together, we did.
A few months after we started running together, other female co-workers started asking if they could join us on our runs. Our running group kept growing and would evolved into the backcountry skiing, mountain biking, river rafting, hiking, and whiskey drinking ladies group. A community of like-minded ladies getting outside together and supporting one another.
I know this sounds like it is so easy, but it isn’t. It takes a lot of time to develop these relationships and find the activity that is right for you. Also, it shouldn’t cost an entire month of rent to join! That is why I want to share some organizations that are committed to building a supportive community for women to go outdoors and get after it.
Bell Helmets / Joy Ride – I first heard about these events from Jessica Klondnicki, who organized informal mountain bike group-rides, based in Santa Cruz, CA. Girls Rock is what inspired Bell Helmet’s Joy Ride, which launched this month in cities all throughout the US and Canada. The groups meet once a month and host rides based on the rider/ability level. It is a casual and supportive environment that nurtures women’s involvement in the sport of mountain biking. I recommend checking out one of these rides if there is an event in your area. It is a great way to meet other women, but also get on the trail and advance your mountain biking skills.
Trail Mavens – A local Bay Area camping and backpacking women’s group that gets together in the wilderness and around the campfire. Started by Sasha Cox who was inspired to get groups of women outdoors over a weekend to learn skill-based camping, experience nature, and make new friends. Trail Mavens trips are designed by women and for women, with the goal of making outdoor access seamless and approachable.
I met Sasha two years ago at an OIWC event and encouraged her to present Trail Maven’s at Pitchfest last summer at Outdoor Retailer. The event was a competition where women entrepreneurs had a platform to “pitch” their idea, brand, or service to a panel of CEO’s in the outdoor industry, including Jerry Stritzke, President and CEO of REI,; Scott Kerslake, CEO of Prana; and Jill Layfield, former CEO of Backcountry.com.
Sasha was one of the finalist in the competition and I expect to see Trail Mavens events continue to sell out in the Bay Area and hopefully expand to other regions! Sasha and Trail Mavens are the real deal. Oh, and did I mention they provide the campfire libations?!
She Jumps – Started in 2006 by Lynsey Dyer, Vanessa Pierce, and Claire Smallwood with a mission of supporting women reach their outdoor goal in a communal and supportive environment. With events all over the country, She Jumps is dedicated on increasing female participation in outdoor activities such as skiing, snowboarding, hiking, and mountain biking. They offer supportive events like “Get the Girls Out!,” Outdoor Education, Youth Initiatives and grassroots regional events at least once a quarter.
While living in Utah, I attended a few She Jumps events, one of which was a backcountry safety course in partnership with the Utah Avalanche Center. The event offered FREE women’s-only beacon clinic, Backcountry 101, and an introduction class on evaluating snow pack. The Backcountry 101 clinic was designed for all ability levels. Women got to ask questions and use the equipment. The clinic provided education tools on how to assess conditions prior to going out. This event in particular, I have to say, gave me the tools and experience needed to survive last winter when I was lost in the backcountry in Japan.
Running, mountain biking, hiking, skiing and snowboarding all promote an active outdoor lifestyle. I have been forever changed by my love for these activities. They have opened a whole new world for me and the community of individuals (especially women) with whom I choose to spend my time.
My experiences outdoors gives me the confidence to be the wife, daughter, sister, friend, and colleague that I was always meant to be. That is why I am so grateful for organizations like Joy Ride, Trail Mavens, and She Jumps. Offering women the opportunity to discover the outdoors and meet other women from different backgrounds and ages is invaluable.
Look forward to connecting with all of you at one of these events this year!
– Lady hawk