Tips for Staying Safe on the Trail
When Gina Lucrezi founded Trail Sisters several year ago, she did so because she was tired of the lack of female participation in trail running and the sport’s resulting inequality. What started as a blog has since grown into an ever-expanding community of trail-running women around the globe, banding together through a common passion: trail running.
And so, we caught up with the Carbondale, Colo.-based trail runner and entrepreneur to chat about women in the sport, trail running and her top tips for staying safe along the way. Here’s what she had to say:
Why do you think it’s important that more women participate in the sport of trail running?
It really isn't about having more women participate just to participate, it's really about informing and educating women that they can participate. I know there tons of women interested in the sport of trail running, but many of them are either intimidated, struggling to find a welcoming beginner environment or, quite simply, can’t find enough education from the female perspective on how to start trail running.
I find it most important to break down the barriers keeping women away from the trails, and diminish the mentality that trail running is too hard. In short, the more women on trails, the stronger example we create for other women that they can do it, too. On a separate, but parallel note, the more women we have on trails, the more female-specific products, attention and equality are built within the sport and outdoor industry.
From your experience in the trail running industry (both as a trail runner and as the founder of TrailSisters.net), how do you feel the sport has empowered you to live a better, more fulfilling life?
The most important thing I've gained from being an athlete and a trail-running professional is stronger self-confidence. Running requires effort and grit. It teaches you very quickly what you're made of and how hard you must work to achieve your goals. Additionally, outdoor industry professions are dominated by the male demographic. More women are taking c-suite roles, but we still have a long way to go in terms of balance. Professionally, I learned that I had to stand up for myself and joust with the “good ol’ boys” if I wanted to make my point. It takes self-confidence and a fearless attitude to make your voice heard.
Safety is important when it comes to trail running. What are the biggest fears you hear newcomers to the sport have? And, what advice do you give?
It's actually hard to pick one fear, as it depends on where the runner is from (a city vs. suburbs for instance), but I'd say the fear of being attacked (by a human or animal) is the biggest fear of any trail runner. We often let our minds take us to the worst possible situations and, ironically, those are the situations you might encounter maybe one percent of the time. So, I advise those who are fearful of animals and humans with the following:
1) Animals. What predators are in your area? After you’re aware of what you may encounter, simply do some research on how to avoid the animal(s). If it's a mountain lion, get big and talk in a low, deep voice, stay calm and never turn your back when you walk away. And do so slowly, keeping your eyes on the cat at all times.
2) Humans. When out on the trail, always make eye contact with the people you pass. Because of that quick connection, you’ll remember seeing each other. This will either alert a creeper that you've seen them and are aware of them or, if you get hurt and a friend asks if anyone has seen you, chances are, the people you made eye contact with will remember you.
What do you think is the most overlooked safety pitfall runners face on the trails?
Exposure. Many people go into the backcountry without being properly prepared for the weather or the terrain. It’s easy to let our ego take over and assume nothing will happen to us, but when it does, and we’re stuck out in a remote location without proper gear, that’s when trouble begins.
Any close encounters with wildlife, people or scary terrain when you’ve had to really manage fear? What did you do?
Just this past weekend I was in Moab, UT, with a friend to run a 50K loop. We knew it would be hot, that there was no shade and no place to refill our water. We carried as much water as possible, though. In fact, we carried so much that our backs hurt from how heavy our packs were. And, on top of that, we started our run at 8 a.m. (too late for a hot, desert summer). Long story short, I ended up with heat exhaustion. The hike out was memorable … but not in the way you want! Lessons learned: We should have started our run earlier in the day or picked a route with more water access (even if only used to cool us down). While I thought I was fully prepared (and I’m a trail running veteran), the exposure got me; if not fully prepared, this sort of thing can happen to anyone.