I began this blog below a few days after coming home from Telluride in early July, but tabled it for two months not knowing how many women actually put into the lottery. However, since then an article “How and for whom the Hardrock Lottery works,” answering many of my questions has come out in Trail Runner Magazine, relating Darcy Piceu’s story and ( http://trailrunnermag.com/races/featured-races/2274-howand-for-whomthe-hardrock-lottery-works )
Answer; 16% of the potential runners put into the HRH lottery were female, while 10.5% of the HRH racers were female.
Here are my original thoughts immediately following the race;
This year would be my second time in Telluride, but really my first time spectating at HRH (HardRock Hundred.) I decided to actually check out several of the mountain passes and see what the race was all about. Along with me was my friend Liz, another female outdoor adventurer who has a family history with the HRH. Let me start by saying this; its no joke. This year there wasn’t much snow at all, and for someone going out on trails like that for the first time, it was momentarily terrifying…. until I realized, hey, I can do this… pretend the scree is snow and “ski” or “butt slide,” down it. It was thrilling, adrenaline creating, electrifying, and terrifying all at the same time. Those Hardrock-ers have balls to run those passes in the dark after being awake for 40+ hours! (And yes, after the initial adrenaline wore off, I realized I had become obsessed and hope to someday also finish HRH.)
As I was watching these amazing individuals run along the course, it dawned on me… there were 152 starters, while 16 of those starting were women. Why might that be? I decided to look up some HRH statistics. The race began in 1992 as a tribute to the men and women who set out to find their fortunes-many losing their lives-looking for gold, silver, and other minerals in the San Juan Mountains.
The inaugural HRH had 36 male starters and 6 female starters. Over the years 2214 men have started the race, with 1405 of them finishing. 316 women have started 184 of them successfully finishing.
(note: two years the race was cancelled. 1995; too much snow, 2002; dangerous fire.)
I’m not writing this because somehow I feel, as a woman, shorted in the lottery and didn’t get it. In all transparency, I did put in this year, I had a qualifier last year but wasn’t mentally ready. This is not a rant, just questions that have sprung into mind since the race.
Charlie Thorn, one of the many who help make this run happen, has so nicely put together all the data from every year, which is where I got most of my information.
I know that women participants make up a smaller percentage of all ultra runners, but only 10% does seem curiously low. Are there really so few women who put in for HRH? Seems the average overall age of finishers is age 44, a prime age for families to have children still in grade school and needing mom and dad’s support and attention. Many of the couples I know try to split the child care as best as possible, but I still see much of it falling to the moms. (update; I found that 16% of the lottery entrants are women..so 10% of the runners being female isn’t too far off.)
Let’s talk about the two top finishers this year; Anna Frost and Jason Schlarb. (note, Jason and Killian tied.)
So Anna is an unmarried female, supported by Solomon, full time job trail running. Jason is supported by Altra, running is also his full time job, however, he is married with a young son. His wife was at the race, as support. I don’t believe she is an ultra runner, she sure seems to be an active individual, but I don’t think she races-not sure though. This is just one example, but I saw many many men with their wives, children, and even grandchildren there happily supporting their efforts. This made me so happy to see the family atmosphere firsthand. However, it was usually the husband running, the supportive wife, and kids in tow. I think part of this discrepancy of men running while women support is because there were only 16 female racers, so I just happened to see this scenario replay over and over for men and not for women.
More men than women participate in ultramarathons. A 2011 year-end review in Ultrarunning magazine sited 27 percent female ultra running participants. Similarly, UltraSignup.com found that, of those who used the site to sign up for ultras in 2013 and 2014, women accounted for 27 and 29 percent, respectively. Women comprised 22.5 percent of 2016 Western States 100 finishers and 18.8 percent of 2015 Leadville Trail 100 finishers.
This makes the HRH the lowest of the “popular mountain 100s” at 10.5% when it comes to female participants. As explained in the Trail Runner Magazine, the lottery tries to favor the veteran runners, and there are more veteran male runners than female.
In many ways I applaud the HRH to keeping the lottery open to all, not just elites. With that said I think it is every person’s responsibility that if they put their name into the lottery, they realize that they are taking a coveted spot, and they put forth the effort to train hard, and fully attempt to finish each lottery race they take a spot in. There are so few spots, and so many people who are waiting to put their hearts into training for these races. There is no shame in pulling out if you get picked in the lottery for some unseen reason; family, injury, work, life etc gets in the way. Bow out and let someone off the wait list in. Don’t let fomo get you to the starting line of a race you know you can’t finish.
Neither I, not the TRM article, has a definitive answer when it comes to women representation in the HRH or ultra races in general. I think that the HRH has every right to keep things as they are and continue the tradition of their lottery, and not save 20% of its slots for women, at the same time, it would be nice to see a deeper Women’s field in the San Juans. It might actually encourage more women to put in to the HRH hundred lottery, or any other mountain ultra.
I do think that is one key to more women in these types of events; seeing other women succeed in tough races. I have been lucky to have had several women I have only met through social media thank me for sharing my adventures and inspiring them to go on their own, which leads me to believe that having more women more visual in ultra races will inspire others to follow.
Whatever happens or doesn’t happen to the lottery- the Hardrock Hundred will continue to draw me to it, and hopefully other women as well!
Do you have any thoughts to share, please do!