Ultrarunning legend Nicky Spinks – the first person to complete ‘doubles’ of the three big UK mountain rounds: the Bob Graham Round, Paddy Buckley Round and Charlie Ramsay Round – was in Scotland last weekend.
The cancer survivor combines work as a farmer in Yorkshire with a series of ultra adventures which have won her international renown. And she was bringing her experience of training and participating in some of the world's toughest ultra challenges to a weekend course staged to encourage women into the growing sport of ultrarunning and equip them with the skills and confidence they need to succeed.
The course was held by Scottish trail running company, Girls on Hills and was the first of its kind. It was delivered in Glencoe with the support of Nicky Spinks and fast-packing explorer Jenny Tough.
The weekend incorporated sessions on nutrition, injury prevention, navigation and running with poles. Uniquely it also included talks on motivation, mindfulness and strategies for managing fear.
“There will always be lots of reasons why you shouldn't do something, but if it's important to you, you need to make it happen. You can’t let fear rule your life! Make a list of the things that stand in your way, then figure out how you can overcome each of those barriers. Then just go!” says Tough “You are always tougher than you think!”
The sessions covered women-specific topics such as the menopause, amenorrhea and travelling and wild-camping as a solo female. The group also learned about building useful muscle without ‘bulking’ from female World Champion weigh-lifter Emma Hebborn.
Keri Wallace, Co-Director of Girls on Hills told runABC Scotland: “We’re thrilled the event was a success. It was such a positive and open atmosphere, and a really unique experience; 20 ladies enjoyed learning new skills from some top athletes and sharing their love of trail running.
Keri continued: "Trail running is the fastest growing sport in the UK and Europe, and within this there has been an unprecedented explosion in the discipline of ultrarunning, with the number of ultra marathons increasing by over 1000% in the last decade.
"Despite more women running than ever before, there is still a staggering gender-gap in participation in the sport. Compared to road racing, where the number of male and female entrants is now very similar, only 15-35% of entrants in ultra-distance trail running events are female.
"With strong female role models like Nicky Spinks and Jenny Tough, it has been proven time and again that the main barrier for women in ultrarunning is not a physical one. Often it’s to do with confidence and self-belief."
Nicky Spinks (pictured in orange above) agreed: “I think many women put themselves second to work, life and family. We are used to looking after ourselves and other people in daily lives, and can use this mindset to great effect in ultrarunning.”
Find out more about their programme of events at the Girls On Hills website.