TrackGirlz is going to Track Town USA! Both middle school and high school girls are eligible to participate in the TrackGirlz Street Race on June 26 at the official U.S. Olympic Team Trials Race Walk course in Springfield, OR.
Top finishers in each category will win tickets to watch the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials that same day.
Each participant will receive a special gift bag with TrackGirlz apparel, Oiselle sports bra, Wahiwater and Track Town gifts. The top three finishers in each category will receive special prizes, including SKLZ equipment and the top finisher in each category will win tickets to watch the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials that same day.
This event is free thanks to the grants sponsor, TEAM Springfield (City of Springfield, Springfield Public Schools, Springfield Utility Board, and Willamalane Park & Recreation District). TrackGirlz, in partnership with Sport Oregon, TrackTown USA and Willamalane, is hosting this event for middle and high school girls to come together to unify through sisterhood, empowerment, and track and field.
Participants are provided a speed training program designed by TrackGirlz Leaders, Olympian, Mechelle Lewis Freeman, and Wellness Coach Jennifer Nash Forrester, which includes three workouts each week. Join us on Thursday, June 24 at 4pm where we will host an in-person workout session onsite at Willamalane Park & Recreation Center in Springfield, OR.
TrackGirlz is a 501c3 nonprofit organization helping girls reach their full potential through track and field. Our programs include empowerment workshopz and grants that provide resources to enable participation in track and field, educational resources, and direct mentorship with women from the TrackGirlz community, including Olympians, elite coaches, and industry leaders.
JackRabbit Marketing Guru, Laura Cortez took on the Brazos Bend 50 Miler this past weekend in Houston, TX. Check out her full race recap below.
50 miles by foot takes a long time. Doing it for your first time is also equally one of the longest and fastest experiences you’ll ever have. It’s kind of like those things where you’re so in-the-moment and rolling with punches because you don’t think it’s ever going to end, but then you blink and suddenly it’s all over and all that prep work you did to lead up to this moment has ended. This is how my first 50-mile race went, for the most part.
On April 3 I participated in the Brazos Bend 50 down in Houston, TX to race the 50-miler. Due to COVID, instead of it being at a state park, the race took place at a horse ranch and consisted of 3 loops: Red (4.8mi)x2, Orange (7.3mi)x3 and Yellow (6.1mi)x3 – all filled with more sand than you’d hope.
We started with the 100K racers at a dark 6 am start line. It was great, to one – be on a starting line again, and two – for us all to have done so much work to be ready and then to immediately head off in the wrong direction. It was clear that a lot of us we’re either not physically or mentally present during the pre-race brief literally 15-minutes prior to the start.
The race then continued just as anyone would have thought it to – in the dark, unable to really see the markings and just a group of 95 people with headlamps occasionally yelling “found it!” or “wrong way!” until the first loop was completed about an hour later.
Community was formed from the start with how laughably poor we had paid any mind to directions. I found myself for the first few laps with the lead pack consisting of A.J., Josh and Garrett. We thankfully had plenty of time for introductions after realizing the sand would keep all of us from having any record-shattering performances. Even more – we all got along very well and were content with just figuring out the loops together for at least the first set.
With the first 18ish miles done, we were on our way to the second red loop. “Our” meaning mine and Josh’s, who I ended up running the rest of the race with. He stopped to grab some extra nutrition and I kept jogging, soon to find out in the wrong direction – again. Back on course, we decided it was time to be a bit more smart with everything. Walk when the sand is too deep and wastes energy, find the best sides to run on now so later it’s not even a decision, pay attention to what’s at the aid station tables. I felt really lucky to have had Josh with me – given that not only was he great at conversation, but he also had experience running 50 milers already.
After the last red lap at mile 22ish, we started on another Orange, which we had agreed was the best lap with the ‘least’ amount of sand. After starting with a vest, I had switched to a handheld while my pacer Julian – who couldn’t start until about halfway – refilled my soft flasks. Josh and I continued to flow easily through the miles just chatting about everything under the sun. It wasn’t until we were coming into the second Yellow lap and we had reached the halfway point and I started to question everything.
At roughly 50K, Julian was able to come in to pace, pass off my vest in exchange for the handheld and just be a refreshed and lively body to help Josh and I get out of the slump we were in. Simultaneously, this is where I also started to fall apart. After a hard fall at mile 32 and suddenly thankful for the bounty of sand to fall into, my hamstrings and IT bands started to suggest we stop. Everything was tight, my knee felt like it needed to pop and a full stride extension felt like it would rip my hamstrings apart. I wanted to cry but could only heave and then realized, oh wow my body is too tired to cry. That was a first.
I was giving it my absolute all to stay with Josh but Julian was able to tell that wasn’t going to be smart and subtly helped me let Josh go. At the next aid station I decided it was time to eat everything. Half a PB&J, bag of potato chips, cups of blue gatorade, ginger ale and flat coke – it was the most euphoric moment I had ever experienced and suddenly I was whole.
By mile 40, the gang was back together as in, we caught back up with Josh – which is a generous statement since it was more us yo-yoing back and forth with him. The jokes had largely stopped and the only thing we knew was we were almost done but still weren’t totally convinced. We were sitting in 3rd and 4th up until this point and we had fully mastered the fast shuffle. I continued to stop at every aid station to grab a PB&J and a flat coke, while Josh would let me know he was going to continue ‘meandering’ ahead but would wait for me to catch up.
It wasn’t until we finished the last Orange loop and were on the final Yellow that Josh more or less started racing me. Julian did his best to keep me going and for the first time in a couple hours, we went more than 2 miles without walking. My hamstrings felt like they were going to snap if I even tried to lengthen my stride by a centimeter, my right knee had lost most range of motion, my lower back was just continuing to spazz. I had never been in a position where the mindset was just to finish and to block out everything else around me and follow Julian’s steps.
With about a mile to go, Josh had fully dropped me on a hill. I had never been more fine with being dropped in my life. The final stretch to the finish was about 200-meters long and lined with people sitting under their canopies or in their chairs clapping and cheering endlessly as all of the runners came through – no one really knowing who was in what race, but still very intimately part of every runner’s experience.
I crossed the finish line in 7 hours, 36 minutes and 2 seconds, able to feel every millisecond of time we were out there. Shortly after I came through, our good pal Garrett made his way to the finishline too. We cheered for him and he cheered for us and A.J. who dropped us early on and never looked back, came over too to say hi and to digest what we all just went through.
I don’t think I can stress enough the unique experience it was to not only share so much time – but also to have banded together at the start and to all have individually and silently decided that yes, these are the people I will rely on. That seems like a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence that also happened at the perfect time.
It’s no secret that climate change is happening – and as runners, we tend to notice changes within our environments rather quickly. Whether it be more air pollution (hello, Denver!), decrease in annual snowfall or even dangerous increases in precipitation and rain.
However, running sustainably means more than just wearing plastic-free and recycled gear. Sustainability starts at the beginning of the production process, ensuring workers have fair wages, human rights, benefits and more. Below are some of our brand partners that are focused on both sustainable products and human rights.
SUSTAINABLY SOURCED: Our definition: Materials that have little to no impact on the environment, including production process and post-consumption.
Reebok has sustainability locked-in when it comes to sustainability practices by releasing their [REE]GROW and [REE]CYCLED lines of footwear and apparel. Employing eucalyptus bark, castor bean oil, bloom algae, natural rubber and recycled polyester into their manufacturing has allowed Reebok to stay ‘ahead of the thread’.
For over 25 years, Icebreaker has led the way in outdoor sustainability apparel. Their secret? Dedication to sustainable methods…and their fan-favorite Merino wool. What is Merino?
“Merino is super lightweight, soft, non-itchy, non-clammy, warm in the cold and cool in the heat. Plus, it has a miraculous ability to resist odor. Because it was made in the mountains rather than in a petrochemical laboratory. Merino wool fiber is naturally renewable, recyclable and biodegradable*.”
They have lofty goals of using only 100% natural fibers (goodbye, plastic!) by 2023. Beyond their materials, they look at the intersectionality of their workers + what sustainability means. We’re happy to have partners like them who exceed industry averages in labor practices, hours, wages, benefits and more. Learn more about their dedication to human rights here.
Have shoes you no longer wear? Visit your local running store and ask if they have a donation bin for used shoes.
ABOUT THE LOOP
What is the loop? The loop is in reference to the lifecycle of a product. Instead of it going from production to business to consumer to waste, in a loop system the product is able to stay out of the landfill and looped back into recycling or other uses.
ADIDAS THREE LOOP STRATEGY
“Through sport, we have the power to change lives”
The team at adidas has a strong understanding of what it means to play for the environment. The were the first in the industry to bring eco-innovations to the mass market. They are founding members of Better Cotton, Leather Working Group and the Fair Labor Association. Their commitment has allowed adidas to pave a clear path for others to follow. Working toward a circular model (where products can be recycled, returned or remade once the user no longer needs it) has brought them to their Three Loop Strategy – Made with recycled materials, Made to be remade, Made to regenerate.
We’re proud to carry part of the adidas Parley collection. These adidas styles take plastic from the ocean and turns it into best-selling footwear.
When it comes to finding our movement through sustainable choices, running footwear and apparel are an easy first step to take. With all of the options available today, the team at JackRabbit is excited to carry top sustainable footwear and apparel brands, making them readily accessible for our customers.
The great thing about running is all of the different ways you can go about it. You are able to find which type of running (indoor, outdoor, trail, road, track, the list goes on) fits you best and easily tailor activity around that.
For those who want to ‘find their fit’ in trail running, this one is for you.
We share the best trail running shoes for the rugged and smooth trails of 2021.
BREAKING DOWN THE TRAIL RUNNING MYTH
Daily summits on local mountains, hitting trails to get thousands of feet of vertical gain, jumping on, off and over rocks and roots. These things are all cool, and yes are the experiences of some runners who have access and time to commit to The Trail™, however, the reality of trail running is that these experiences don’t need to be everyone’s experience nor are they a prerequisite to being considered a trail runner.
Breaking down this trail running myth is essential to entering the sport. So what is daily trail running? It’s your local trails, your local bike paths, the one-foot-long span of dirt you have in your neighborhood. It’s running up the hills in your neighborhood and conquering those local summits.
These two worlds do have one common intersection – shoes – and this is where we’ll breakdown the best trail running shoes for you.
Sunrise summits on rocky and uneven trails? Sign the Altra Lone Peak up. The Lone Peak is a trail runner’s dream using Altra EGO midsole for a responsive yet soft ride and a MaxTrac™ outsole to give you that grippy and secure feel on the trail.
Road shoes, meet trail shoes. Trail shoes, meet road shoes. The HOKA Challenger ATR combines the best of both shoes to make the doorstep to trail a smooth and seamless transition. All Terrain is in the name, afterall.
This neutral trail running shoe was designed with broad, closely spaced zonal lugs so you can stay in control on the trail and still have a soft landing while on the roads.
Meet Rajpaul Pannu, a member of the HOKA Aggies running club, 2:17 road marathon runner and Olympic Trials qualifier, first generation Indian-American and full-time high school math teacher. After having his big-break-run at the 2017 California International Marathon, he’s not slowed down and is now making space for himself in the ultra-running world.
HOKA ONE ONE PROJECT CARBON X 2: RACE RECAP
HOKA set out on a bold goal to launch the Carbon X 2 – their fast, carbon plated race shoe – Project Carbon X 2 was a race against time for HOKA athletes to try and break the 100K world record.
Below is the race recap from Rajpaul Pannu, who in his second ultra run, finished second in the men’s race and set an American 100K debut record.
“I feel like there’s subtext whenever a BIPOC person toes the starting line in the endurance world. This act, for me, is an act of rebellion and against the status quo. It allows me to create a narrative that challenges any preconceived notions that people may have about me. It also allows me to bridge the gap between my community of people and something that is incredibly empowering: running really, really far.”
My full-name is Rajpaul Pannu, I was raised in Hercules, California (20 miles north of Oakland) and currently live and train in Denver, Colorado.
I am a first-generation Indian-American born to a single mother who has worked hard to give me the opportunities in which she herself did not have.
Training for this event really began in August, when I was training to run my first ultra-marathon-The JFK 50 miler, which consists of a 15 mile run through the Appalachian trail, a marathon on a subtle incline, and caps off having you run a hilly and windy road for 8 or so miles.
The methodology of my training consisted of three phases. I began phase one with general easy runs with a trail run typically performed every other day. I had no trail running background prior and running on something like gravel is considered “technical” for me. Knowing how green I was, I decided to explore it once I had (finally) understood the degree of the pandemic’s effect on large road races, how nothing was going to open up as a result of it. However, trail races, be it scarce were happening in certain parts of the country so I entertained the idea of completing one to see how I would respond to doing so.
After several falls and a few ankle sprains, I began phase two, as I had eventually backed off on running trails and started to run exclusively on roads. The punishment received from the trails really made me appreciate running on smooth, flat surfaces. I had also noticed that my easy runs were a lot easier as a result of climbing/descending some of the toughest terrain that Colorado has to offer. I was now supplementing the trails with quicker, fast-paced fartleks, intervals, and long runs eventually building upwards to 115 miles-something that I had never done before. Phase two culminated with me placing 6th at the JFK 50 miler-my first ultra marathon.
100K TRAINING FOR PROJECT CARBON X 2
I initially had in mind to take some time off from running after the JFK 50 miler, as I needed to recharge both physically and mentally. However, a day after, I had received an email from Mike McManus-global marketing director of HOKA ONE ONE. Mike was impressed with my run at the JFK 50 miler and had asked me to run Project Carbon X 2-a 100K/62.2-mile race where the best ultra-runners throughout the world have the mountainous task of breaking the 100K male and female world records.
I was initially scheduled to pace the runners anywhere between 40-50 kilometers, so the idea of doubling that may have sounded daunting, but I understood what an opportunity this was for me to showcase myself in the ultra running world in a time of uncertainty. As a result, any feeling of needing time off had diminished, as I was recharged within a day after running what I believe to be the toughest race of my life.
Phase three was perhaps the most grueling, as my body was not fully recovered from the JFK 50 miler. I had a total of eight weeks to prepare for Project Carbon X 2, which really meant that I had six as the last couple of weeks are typically dedicated to tapering and having your body recovered. My mileage was planned: 90, 100, 110, 115, 125, 110. The staple workout for the first block was long runs performed at world record (WR) pace (5:56/mile) every other week. I performed 20 and 26.2 mile long runs but felt myself a bit gassed out doing so. It wasn’t until the 5th week where I felt I had truly hit my stride: a 50K long run at a similar pace. This time around, I felt amazing and could have kept going.
Just as important as the race-specific work, were 10K-half marathon workouts that had juxtaposed the mountainous mileage that I was completing. One workout that gave me the utter confidence that I can compete with the best was 6 x mile repeats where the last one was performed at 4:43 pace.
LIFE-WORK TRAINING BALANCE
The biggest advantage of moving to Colorado was that I have been able to keep my teaching job in California, as I work remotely.
As a result, I’m able to wake up, have breakfast, and hit the roads running, perform workouts, and adhere to a stretch routine all before my first class of the day which begins at 10:30 MST. Since I’m not running around like a headless chicken making copies, corralling students, pacing around the classroom to ensure that everyone is on task, that time is invested into doing light stretches to ease my body from sitting for long periods of time.
It’s also important to note that the result of the pandemic has forced me into becoming a homebody, something that I wasn’t keen on being in my early 20’s. It’s also allowed me to take care of myself on the weekends, which has enabled me to adapt to a higher volume of work since I’m actually recovering rather than nights out on the town.
PROJECT CARBON X2 RACE DAY
The morning of the race was perfect. Almost a little too perfect. I had gotten close to six hours of sleep: which is plenty for me before a race. Woke up, immediately went to the restroom and felt a sense of relief that I had gotten “it” out of the way. I then ate breakfast two hours prior to my race: A peanut butter and agave sandwich with half an RX bar and an electrolyte drink diluted with water.
I proceeded to do my ritual of rope activation stretches and Theragun to activate the muscles. Before heading out to the lobby for the shuttle, I had to use the bathroom…again.
Unlike shorter racing events, you don’t necessarily need a grand warm-up routine for the 100k, especially if you’re gonna put your body on the line for over six hours. As a result, I was incredibly calm and ready to tackle on some initial easy miles. About 15 minutes before the race, I used the bathroom one last time. Something was off as I don’t have to go all that often typically, but had hopes that it would be the last pit stop for hours. I was wrong.
Moments before the race, I took a 100mg caffeinated Unived Gel and planned on ingesting one nutritional gel every thirty minutes vs. the traditional twenty as Unived offers 190 calories per gel pack, which I took every thirty minutes along with water and electrolytes in intervals.
Right before the gun went off, I looked out into the abyss of the sky and threw up a prayer asking my ancestors for protection and well-being. I then looked around the starting line to see who I was surrounded by. I’d already known that Fernando Cabada and Brandon Johnson were the only two other POC runners racing the event. I quickly referred back to the shifting narrative of the importance of adequate representation in the outdoors and how participating in big marquee events such as Project Carbon X 2 was the right step in the direction for me to support that notion.
I quickly diverted my attention to my watch, activated the GPS, and then: Pow! The gun went off and as we acclimated ourselves into our pace groups.
OFF TO THE RACE
There were five runners who were chasing after the world record. I had bumped into Jim (Walmsley) at the hotel a couple of nights prior and he suggested an article that summed up the history of the 100K and had prophesied at least two runners dropping out in their pursuit of the attempt.
I had headed his warning and stirred on the side of caution by leading the chase pack with my pacer Ben Robinson guiding me through 6 flat miles for a solid attempt at the American Record. The first 8-9 miles were seamless, as Ben, Joacim (Lantz), and I worked together behind the WR pack. Joacim and I had to take our first bathroom break, as we decided to pee into the bushes and away from any cameras that might have been capturing us. We got back on track running 6-minute miles.
At this time, I had come to a realization that a 6:15 100K was more of a realistic attempt given the emergency stops that I may need to take. Unfortunately, the next one was within 30 minutes. This time around, I encouraged Ben and Joacim to carry on without me as I had to use the restroom to discard “it”, ultimately tacking on additional 30-45 seconds or so off of my attempt, but I immediately got back on track.
Within the first 22 miles, I had used the bathroom three times, but felt great physiologically. Several miles had past and Ben eventually dropped out as he had performed a stellar job pacing. I hit the 50k mark just a shade under 6:20 pace. I initially thought I was going 3-4 minutes quicker, but then realized how important it was to run the tangents properly, which I hadn’t done well for the first part of the race.
I stopped at the first restroom after the 50K mark and had realized that my nightmare had come true: diarrhea. It was from the 50K mark and beyond where I was now forced to take a bathroom break every 30 minutes or so. This began to chop down my time in hopes of breaking the American Record, but I was hopeful as I still felt great and was able to hit the ground running at 6-minute pace after my restroom intervals.
Sometime around the 70K mark, three out of the five runners attempting to break the world record had dropped out. All but Jim and Craig Hunt, who had previously run the marathon project and looked strong despite a short notice to run the race. The 70K to 95K portion of the race was a huge war of attrition between my mind and my body. I really don’t remember much of it to be honest, but I kept an upbeat attitude knowing that I just had a standard weekly 18-mile long run to complete (perhaps this is where I had begun to become a bit disillusioned).
Also, by this time, I had worked my way up to second place as Craig had fallen back.
THE FINAL STRETCH
Around the 95K mark, I looked at my watch and calculated that I was right on American Record pace with not a moment to spare. My stomach, unfortunately, had other plans as I was faced with a decision I now regret: using the bathroom one last time. As I stepped out of the restroom one last time, I knew I had some work to do.
I began to pick up the pace, running sub six for the first time since the second mile of the race. By now, I was visibly in pain as the right side of my body was slowly shutting down. Regardless, it was the fastest I had been running.
I made one final turn and into the homestretch into the race track, which was about half a mile: the longest half mile of my life. From there, I was wincing, hoping that I had some miracle of breaking the previous American Record of 6:27.44. Unfortunately, the third digit of the clock had hit “8”, signaling that I was not going to dip in. Still, with the encouragement of the HOKA crew and pacers, I held on to my pace as I kicked it into the finish. 6:28.31. A debut record.
As an athlete, I really see myself running this race in the 6:0?’s, making future USA teams and representing HOKA at international events such as Comrades Marathon.
We sat down with Altra Ultra-Runner Ryan Montgomery, who holds many titles. We talked all things running, finding who you are and how to balance everyday life while still making time for yourself.
WHO IS RYAN MONTGOMERY
A 26-year-old full-time worker at Accenture, a 100-mile winner, 200-miler 2nd place finisher, Badwater 135 finisher, Wonderland Trail Fastest Known Time record holder. These accolades are just some of the things that fill up Ryan’s running extensive running resume. More than a decorated runner, Ryan is also taking up his space as one of the few openly gay athletes in the trail running world with a goal in 2021 being to continue creating more visibility and space for other LGTBQIA+ athletes to feel comfortable and ultimately, themselves.
“I want to create space and a feeling of belonging for other gay athletes in the community. I’ve gotten messages before from other gay runners who thought they were the only one, or where I’m one of the only other gay runners they know of.”
Reiterating his identity in not just the running world, but life as a whole as an openly gay man is a critical step toward continued diversification of the sport. Ryan knows this. One thing in particular he talked about is to take up your space and not to be afraid to do so.
After growing up in a more conservative environment and culture, being 26 today, Ryan said, “it’s still uncomfortable sometimes to say I’m a gay person in public, it should be a normal thing. A lot of these feelings still exist with me today.”
“Take up your space you know, emotionally, physically, know your value.”
It can be scary, the concept of taking up space. Holding an identity that has historically not been truly accepted is exhausting. This is one of the many reasons Ryan wants to be upfront and visible through his continued action in sport and those he works with to support him. By creating space and room for a conversation to be had, he hopes to give others the support they need to feel comfortable being who they are. He’s been vocal, for example, to brands who he represents about who he is, the value he brings and even the value he wants to bring.
“We do these sports because we want community we want ti find people who are like ourselves. So that’s why I think it’s important for me to continue to be visible, to be an advocate for other people like myself.”
It’s important to sit with yourself every once in a while and think about your value outside of a job or running environment. Jotting down on paper your values, the things you value about yourself the most and the things you stand for can actually be a very empowering exercise to find yourself.
From his first 100-mile race at the Wasatch 100 in Kaysville, Utah in 2017, learning how to navigate the emotional highs and lows ultrarunning brings you, to more confidently running 100 miles through the Alaskan wilderness in the middle of winter in 2018 to setting FKTs on some of the hardest routes, Ryan has certainly learned one thing “my body is so much more capable than I think it is,” he said. “All my experiences have allowed me to epxplore that state of being and to develop the confidence to compete.”
“You really need to have a lot of experiences, diverse experiences in various settings to really understand your body and your mind to see how deep you can go.”
So this brings us back to the “more miles means better performance” argument. When Ryan talks about ‘diverse experience,’ he means it. Living in the mountains of California at 7,000ft with the nearest trail being a half-mile from his door and plenty of snow in the winter, he is able to take advantage of the elements with skiing and snowshoeing. Embracing new elements is one of the many things that helps to contribute to athletic diversity. “Through a lot of diverse experience, you can really learn how to adjust the body and mindset to see how deep you can go.”
Though, knowing that not everyone has the ideal lifestyle to go ski for lunch every day, he still recommends that others find more ways to be active instead of just running. “The more you diversify your athleticism, the more you can push your limits.”
Much like life, trail running takes a lot of time and experience to learn how to do things better, rather than chasing perfection. You take learnings from training runs, racing, the way training load makes you feel and how it changes as you get older. Understanding that no day, no race, no week will be the same, but knowing how you can adjust to your ever-changing self.
RYAN MONTGOMERY’S SPACE
“I’ve learned that communication is key, both with yourself and others. Knowing when to pull back training and work.”
We went on to talk about his balance between holding down a full-time job and a being professional athlete and all the moving parts those things encompass.
However, this all circled back to the concept of unapologetically taking up your space – not just when you need it, but all the time. Knowing your value and worth can help you stay on track to being your most authentic self.
RAPID FIRE – I say, you say
Shoe – Altra
Nutrition – Pizza
Book – Humans
Season – Spring
Show – Schitt’s Creek
Dessert – Dark Chocolate
WHAT’S RYAN RUNNING IN?
“I love the Torin Plush for the road, the Lone Peak for all-terrain running and the Olympus for trail…I actually wore the OG Olympus way back when I started competing!”
Mechelle Freeman is 2007 World Track and Field champion, and a 2008 Olympian in the 4×200-meter relay. She founded the organization TrackGirlzin 2015 as a way to provide exposure and access for girls to the track and field world that so often gets left behind after college.
She and her co-director, Jennifer Nash Forrester have developed this community to create sisterhood, provide empowerment and to equip girls with the resources necessary to pursue track and field at any level.
MEET MECHELLE FREEMAN
“Growing up, our mom always made sure we had access,” Mechelle said over a nice 9:00 am zoom call. “Whether it be dance, theatre, sports, she always made sure.”
Mechelle and her sister were dubbed “the fast twins” after becoming track athletes in high school. Have a record near and dear to your heart? If it was between 100-meters and 400-meters, you could have wished it farewell once they stepped onto the track.
“We broke records and got state records. When I went off to college at the University of South Carolina, we brought back the first National Championship the school has ever had,” she said.
When we think of track and field today, or have friends who participated in it growing up, there’s often a massive drop-off in participation after high school. The National College Athletics Association (NCAA) released their 2018-2019 “Estimated probability of competing in college athletics” report in which they found that of the 605k high school track and field athletes, just 4.8% go on to compete at the NCAA level.
POST COLLEGIATE JOURNEY
After university, Mechelle found herself in New York City as an intern for VMLY&R (previously Y&R), a top ad agency where she placed her focus for a few years.
Being on a budget with the exorbitant prices in the NYC area, the cost of training, commuting, and gear, Mechelle knows first-hand just how difficult pursuing track can be when you’re on your own.
“I had a vision, though. I knew I was going to make the Olympic team. I became very intentional, everyday.” She later decided to quit her job and make a run at becoming an Olympian.
Coming in last in her first race, her support system was there to encourage her to keep going. “There were a lot of losses and uncertainty,” she says about the start of her time back on the track. “I was hustling, working odd jobs, traveling across town to practice, I relearned discipline.”
FINDING HER STRIDE
After finding her *stride* and gaining more consistency, she found herself in a race with Allyson Felix and others at the U.S track and field championship in the 100-meter sprint (aka the make-or-break race of her career).
“I was on the right side of the race that day. I looked up and saw I came in 3rd by 100th of a second.” For reference, the top runners then go on to make and compete on the World team. She showed up for herself that day and gained Nike, her old ad agency and a local gym as her sponsors.
And so the story goes.Mechelle gets a shiny new PR in the 100-meter sprint of 10.01-seconds and goes on to the Olympics to make the 4×100-meter relay team.
“It’s all about executing the battle. You can only control the controllables and that’s what I had to do.”
Mechelle and her team were watching the Men’s 4×1 relay team against Jamaica where they dropped the baton. An absolute nightmare, and the men’s team was disqualified. The women’s team was next and Mechelle was the second leg.
“I was just going and going on that straight. Passing people everywhere, you know? And I knew all I had to do was pass off the baton and we’d be good, I’d have done my job.”
She comes into the passing zone seeing her teammates hand, which to us would look just fine, but Mechelle could tell the hand was just a little bit lower than comfortable. Hand back, she reaches out to pass the baton and they nail the exchange. Her teammate is off in stellar position to run the final curve and hand-off to the anchor.
“It was all just happening so fast. I was trying to breathe and I looked up and, well, they dropped it in the same zone the men did.”
“People kept telling me track wasn’t relevant after a certain point. I just want to expose the dopeness,” Mechelle starts to tell me. “I want to provide a consistent platform for the community.”
Thus, TrackGirlz was born.
What started as a general platform to empower girls and women in the track and field space, turned into a non-profit organization in 2018 after she met her co-director, Jenniger. Since then, they’ve put on running camps both domestically and internationally as well as running and fitness workshops.
This past year in 2020 amid the start of COVID-19, they’ve started to work on making grants accessible to be able to support girls who want to have the chance to take running to the next level – whether it be in high school, college or after. Exposure and accessibility are two key things Mechelle had learned from her mother growing up. Exposure, accessibility and inclusion are all three key things that are also promoted in TrackGirlz.
“I want to get more Black, Indigenous and people of color involved to expand the conversation,” she says about the future of the organization. “I want to bridge the gap between track and the rest of the running community. I want to bring out all different body types to show just how inclusive this sport is.”
What’s Mechelle’s advice for getting more involved in the running community? “Find your local track club to create community, so you can have people lead you. Track and field has organic diversity, so you can always find something.”
As for future goals of TrackGirlz, Mechelle plans to be able to provide access to millions of girls for sport, to be able to provide direct mentorship opportunities to help them reach the next level, and to eventually develop a team that can be financially supported.
Want to learn more about TrackGirlz? Visit their website here for information about the organization, Mechelle and Jennifer.
Embrace the cold, wet and mud this winter season with JackRabbit’s top gifts for trail runners from footwear to apparel and must-have accessories.
Even the most seasoned trail runners tend to dread winter training. Getting up from bed and knowing you’ll be running in the dark cold hours, likely alone are not the most incentivizing training circumstances.
For those of us (like me writing this!) who are barely making it out the door, here’s a quick rundown of the best running long sleeves, jackets, shoes and accessories that make getting dressed (if anything) fun.
In anticipation of the cold, we tend to overlayer because we can’t fathom being cold even for one second. However, after that initial 5-minute warmup period, you’re thinking about dropping layers and tying them around your waist.
Pro-tip: take off the last-minute decision layer before you leave; you likely don’t actually need it.
Running tops – these are a great and easy way to keep the midsection a little warmer.
At the end of the day, this great debate comes down to preference and cold tolerance. Some runners refuse to wear pants unless it’s under 32 degrees F, others will only wear shorts if the temperature is in the 50s.
There’s no real right or wrong here, but whatever you choose, comfort is key.
Runners know it’s critical to check weather and trail conditions before heading out. If it’s too wet and rainy, it might be a road day to preserve the trail system.
Here are winter trail running shoe top picks.
New Balance Hierro v5 Gore-Tex $150. A great lightweight trail shoe that can withstand the cold wet terrain that also acts as a good transition shoe from road to trail and back.
HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat 4. $145. The tried and true all around trail shoe. The Speedgoat works well on even the wettest of trail surfaces to provide a breathable and largely dry running experience
MUST-HAVE WINTER ACCESSORIES
These accessories never go out of style and last for miles. For both safety and warmth, these are what we don’t leave home without.
Petzl IKO Core Headlamp. $90. The 100% compostable packaging is only half the reason this headlamp is a must have. The Petzl IKO Core has a rechargeable battery, 3 different lighting options (from ‘Oh yeah, this is nice’ to ‘OMG turn off the brights’).
Running Socks. $9-$22. Feetures has a sock for everyone and meets every need. They are moisture wicking, come in different thickness and styles that make the most sense with where you’re at.
If there is something all runners have in common, it’s that we could do a little better pre-, during- and post-run nutrition.
This year for the holidays, help yourself and the runner in your life stay on top of their nutrition game with these easy items.
Ultra-runner Laura knows a thing or two about the how prep, fuel and recover from a run. Ready on to learn her best nutrition offerings available at JackRabbit to fuel your next adventure.
There’s about a 50/50 split between runners who eat before every run and those who can’t fathom the thought.
Which camp do you lie in?
Eat now, thank us later. The Picky Oats Performance Oatmeal has some of the cleanest ingredients around and contains the perfect amount of carbs, sugar and protein to make every run just that much better. Plus, these are made with beets which studies have shown to potentially help running performance over a period of time.
I-refuse-to-eat-before runs, runners
If you don’t like stoopwafels, you probably just haven’t had one yet. These Honey Stinger Waffles are the perfect size for any stomach.
Trying to procrastinate your run? Pro tip: warm this sucker up over the stove or coffee.
Virtual raise of hands for those who eat during their runs. Hardly any? That’s what we thought.
After about 90 minutes your body becomes more or less depleted and needs additional sugars and energy to remain efficient.
Choose your nutrition below:
Gels: For those who just want the nutrition to be over with. GU Energy Gels are a runner’s staple with the variety of flavors and calories to meet your needs. A JackRabbit fave flavor? Lemon Ginger GU
Snack: For those who want to take their time or maybe munch over a longer period of time, try these Honey Stinger Energy Chews. They’re like gushers but for running and minus the gel filling.
After running, there’s about an hour long recovery window to get the nutrients your body needs at a rate that is most effective.
Ideally, your body will be taking in carbs and proteins within an hour after your workout.
Recovery drink: Get all the protein and carbs in one delicious drink. The Skratch Labs Sport Recovery Drink has been a go-to drink for us after long runs and hard workouts.
Consistent nutrition and hydration intake during the day is also essential to being at the top of your running game. UCAN has a great Hydrate Electrolyte Mix that’s easy to drink throughout the day.
Runners, we’re just scratching the surface here. There are myriad other ways to get your calories and your recovery on at JackRabbit. We’ve spent years mixing, chomping, chewing and digesting (yes, the latter is probably the most important of all) many different types of sports nutrition for all types of adventures.
Check out all the running nutrition options at our virtual ‘Nutrition Kitchen’ at JackRabbit.com.
This blog is about racial and ethnic representation in running. We feature input from those who have participated in sport at every level, on every surface and are non-white.
From the everyday runner to collegiate to elite and Olympic trial qualifiers, from road to trail. Each take and experience is unique and most importantly, both valid and essential.
Why do people care about representation in running so much? We’re all just here to run and improve, so why does what everyone looks like have to be so important?
We all have the chance to lace up our running shoes and hit the road or trail for a run. Right?
In theory, everyone can just throw on running shoes and walk out the door for some easy miles. In theory, what people look like doesn’t matter and we all have equal opportunity when it comes to sport.
In theory, representation in sport shouldn’t be such an issue.
Victoria Junious recounts her journey as an African American runner. She shares her experiences as the only Black runner on her cross country team.
“I distinctly remember my coach proudly announcing in our post-race briefing that my teammate was the ‘first non-African runner to cross the line’. My teammates all clapped at this feat. He got fifth place, but that didn’t matter. In this moment, he was first. When I asked my teammates why they cheered, they said that it was ‘pretty much like winning.’ They said it was a ‘compliment to the African runners.’
They did not see a problem with it. I let it go. In the weeks following, I found that it happened after every race in which a white person did not win outright. My coach would give the standings, then add on the standings as if every African runner did not finish. Micro-aggression does not feel like a strong enough word to describe it.
I was the only black girl on my team for the first two years of my college cross country career. I felt every bit of that “only-ness.”
I was only person our coach thought could teach her how to dance or know the hip-hop or r&b songs she flipped past in on the van radio. The only person with “interesting” hair. The person expected to translate “what the sprinter girls meant by…”
Even when I stood on the starting line and looked past our team box, I saw very few non-white people. This was true from the athletes to the coaches, to the support staff.
It was frustrating and alienating, especially when the few black people who made it to top of our field were invalidated by my coach. Over and over, I questioned my place. What was my value to my team, and my standing in the sport as a whole?
I had a sense of longing that at the time that I could not put my finger on. Now I know that I longed for belonging. I wanted to train with someone who shared in my experience. I needed someone to tell me that when I heard something offensive, I did not have to let it go. I did not want to be the only one anymore. I wanted to be represented.”
REPRESENTATION IN RUNNING: WHAT IS IT?
People most often participate in activities where similar backgrounds and interests are shared. Without much thought to that space, we can move into it easily. It’s an automatic safe, and familiar space when it’s with people we can identify with.
Being able to find your identity with those who look like you can be essential to one’s participation and longevity in a sport.
73% report a household income of $75k+, 56% reporting a household income of $100k+.
The half marathon has the largest year over year increase and is thus, the most popular distance to race.
Road-runner participation increases every year
Fun fact, in 2020, over 450 women participated in the marathon Olympic Trials.
When looking at the NYTimes article on the marathon Olympic Trials, there are many things that stand out. Firstly, let’s acknowledge the fact we have are over 450 females to celebrate for breaking barriers down in the sport.
There are many more reports showing higher participation from females as opposed to men in the sport. Female representation is there, so what other kinds of representation are we talking about?
We’re talking race.
Non-white, colored bodies that have vastly different experiences from the white people who come to participate. Take a look at the very bottom of this The New York Times article, you’ll see what I mean.
What follows are some candid comments from the BIPOC running community sharing their journeys and experiences. If we as a running community are going to raise representation in running, we must first understand the experiences of all of those in our sport.
We each come with our own stories. Together we can learn, change and continue to share our running passion with all races, genders, ages and paces.
“One of my favorite runners is Des Linden. She’s hardworking, dedicated, keeps showing up, and has a great sense of humor. In 2018 I watched her cross the finish line at the Boston Marathon. She was the first American woman in 33 years to win the race. However, for me it was more than that. For me, it was watching a Latina cross that finish line and accomplish an amazing feat.
As a Latina runner who has been trail running for two years, I have noticed the lack of diversity in the sport. Unlike road running, where we see more BIPOC participate, we do not see that as much in trail running. In fact, when I run trails on my own, it is rare for me to see another BIPOC on the trail.”
Have you ever entered a space and just felt, weird but unsure of why that is? Or maybe you’ve been to a social group where you just haven’t fit in for one reason or another. Not because people are malicious, but just because. Enter Black, Indigenous, and people of color and the wide experiences of coming into running spaces knowing the misplaced feeling will be there and actively preparing for it.
“To me, representation means respect. It means I can go to a race that is serving Mexican food and not have to worry about getting looks for eating it. It means I don’t have to listen to people mock the Spanish language or accents.
Representation means seeing my identity on the starting line at every level, not just elite or beginner. In this way, I not only have something to aspire to, but to also it promotes accessibility of the sport at all levels.
Representation gives me a mental break; I don’t have to be perfect every race. Representation in running can provide a mental break that so many other people feel.”
REPRESENTATION IN RUNNING AT EVERY LEVEL
This is what we talk about when we talk about representation.
At a high level, having that automatic safe space comprised of people you can share your identity and experiences with, is the foundation of two thing. It advances participation in sport but also keeps athletes involved. Not only that, but representation at all levels gives people the grace to start wherever they are. It removes the pressure to be the best right out the gate.
On an elite level, representation gives people someone to look up to. Someone who likely shares similar backgrounds and struggles and is relatable beyond just an athletic level.
As Black, Indigenous, people of color and just non-white runners, when we find that space, it becomes manageable and accessible.
At JackRabbit, we know we take up space in a predominately homogenous environment. We aspire to support those who are less seen, and to help promote a space where change can happen.
As a first-generation BIPOC growing up, you’re not nurtured to realize what your self-actualization is. Rather, what it takes to be ‘successful’ in the eyes of society. As a result, the outdoors are not prioritized despite the many health benefits that come along with it.
Funding for shoes, running camps, etc. make it difficult for an equitable playing field. Being the mantle for this change starts on the ground level; to take it upon yourself as a BIPOC outdoor enthusiast and bridge the gap. This can be done by simply showing up.
Showing up to road, mountain and trail races.
Showing up to the podium to claim your prize.
Showing up for a group/trail run and encouraging dialogue/hard conversations.
Mother nature is inviting and all you have to do is show up.”
Candace Gonzales further shares her journey into trail running.
“Even when I first started trail running, I felt a bit out of place due to the lack of diversity and representation of LatinX trail runners. However, recently I started running with a local group called Trailtinos. A group formed to promote and connect BIPOC on the trail.
This group has been very special to me. Every time I run with this group, I feel represented. I am running with people who share similar experiences and a similar cultural background. More than that, I do not feel so alone, or out of place knowing there are others out there on the trail with me.
I’ll never run as fast as Des Linden, nor anyone in Trailtinos. But, knowing these runners exist makes me want to continue to work hard and show up to all my road and trail runs.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Cortez, is a dog mom, intersectional environmentalist and runner living in Denver, Colorado. You can listen to an interview with Laura on ‘The Long Run’, a podcast about what keeps runners running long, running strong and staying motivated.