Show up at the start line of any road or trail run, triathlon, or cycling race these days and it is clear women are no longer a minority in the racing scene. Many U.S. events report more than 50 percent female participation, across all distances and all types of terrain. With this growth in women’s athletics comes an increased sense of “sisterhood” amongst runners, cyclists, and triathletes, and a swell of female-only training groups, support networks and endurance events. Not only do women face distinct physiological challenges from men, they might share mental and lifestyle battles that they feel only another woman might relate to. Groups such as Trail Sisters and Another Mother Runner offer training plans, retreats, and inspiration from, and for, female athletes of all abilities.
Virtual “tribes” like these, local women’s run or cycling clubs, and female-only events give some women a more comfortable environment to try something new or push outside a comfort zone without the pressure or competitive stress sometimes felt in once male-dominated sports. Whether real or perceived, plenty of women feel less judged or intimidated by their own gender than by men, who may have different motivations for participating in athletics. For speedsters at the front of the pack, women’s races give them 100 percent of the spotlight, where traditionally they may have been overshadowed by the faster male finishers. And, sometimes it’s just fun to get outside with your girlfriends to celebrate the health, strength, joy, and confidence that endurance sport brings.
Whether you want to try your first 5K, mix up your racing with some dirt, or dress up and party with some friends, here are a handful of Pacific Northwest events catered specifically to girls who just wanna have fun! And maybe kick some butt, too.
T9 Mermaid Run 5K/10K/Kids Dash
June 1, 2019
The Mermaid Series, sponsored by Title Nine, aims to “serve as a platform for women to pursue new goals in fitness and in life,” and hosts several events across the West Coast. Their Spokane run on June 1 is a flat, paved course along a riverfront path with plenty of aid stations and no time limit. Their website offers eight week training plans and profiles of “mermaids” with inspirational stories of accomplishment. Young athletes can participate in the Mermaid Dash, a fun, non-competitive 1.5-mile event for girls to get moving and earn their own finisher medal and necklace.
Wild Woman Trail Marathon/Relay/50K
June 22, 2019
Trout Lake, WA
If you’re up for a longer and dirtier run, check out the eighth annual Wild Woman event near Mount Adams this summer. With onsite camping available, post-race yoga and a local-food lunch, the organizers claim to have “all the ingredients for an untamed weekend: good trails, good food, and great women.” The course looks shaded and relatively flat, so likely a nice entry to trail racing or ultrarunning, and Mount Adams should provide some awesome views while you run and socialize post-race. You can register to run the marathon or 50K on your own or talk some friends into joining you for the weekend as part of a relay team. Top three individuals and teams in each event are awarded delicious artisan pie and wine, so maybe consider throwing in some speedwork to prep for this one if you are an experienced runner. Additionally, to their credit, the organizers have created this as a “zero-waste” event, so no disposable cups, no paper plates, no plastic utensils … nada. Bring your own! Some proceeds from the event are donated to a nearby organization supporting victims of domestic violence. Get out and get wild!
WHY Racing Girlfriends Triathlon & Fitness Festival – Triathlon/Duathlon/Aquabike/5K Run
August 18, 2019
WHY Racing Events is one of the largest multi-sport event producers in the Pacific Northwest, and for 23 years the Girlfriends Triathlon & Fitness Festival has been part of its calendar. Each event along the Columbia River is a sprint distance, with a .5-mile swim, 12-mile bike, and 5K run, depending on which race you choose. The swim is downstream, the run and bike flat and smooth, both making for a less intimidating first go at racing. This Sunday of women-only racing is held as part of a three day festival, starting with a co-ed 5K/10K run and Kids Tri on Friday evening, followed by more co-ed multisport events on Saturday. WHY Racing offers an astounding amount of information and tips for training, nutrition, logistics, race-day prep, and local travel on their website. They want everyone to come into the event feeling comfortable, excited, and confident. Enjoy views of the Columbia River Gorge and nearby Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens while challenging yourself to step outside your usual sport of choice this August.
Bridge of the Goddess Half Marathon/10K
September 14, 2019
Cascade Locks, OR
Another beautiful event along the Columbia River, the Bridge of the Goddess Half Marathon and 10K, boasts “a unique opportunity to start atop the Bridge of the Gods in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge,” before the course takes you along the Historic Columbia River Highway Trail. Not pancake flat, there are a few hills to challenge you along the way, but none so tough that the views can’t distract. Plus, the costume contest is sure to add some fun that might make you forget the miles. Dress up in costume like “your inner goddess” and you can win $100 prize for your creativity. If costumes aren’t your thing, you will certainly still enjoy the fun party-like atmosphere and finish line goodies featuring burgers (veggie, too), Bendistillery cocktails, and a Rogue Ales beer garden.
Happy Girls Sisters Half Marathon/5K
November 2, 2019
Fall in Central Oregon is unbeatable, and the Happy Girls Sisters event is a great excuse to check it out for yourself. Perfect running weather, perfect autumn trails, perfect cozy venue at Five Pines Lodge – everything you need for a perfectly enjoyable 13.1 miles through the woods or 3.1 miles through the quaint town of Sisters. With your registration you are promised “amazing swag bags, social hour at the Girls Night Out packet pickup, and lively post-run party,” not to mention pace groups for the trail half marathon and buckles for those finishers. Even if you are new to trails, the Peterson Ridge course is an overall downhill and runnable route. The 5K participants can look forward to the same pre and post-race festivities and a flat, paved jaunt through downtown. Expect refreshment and catering from Three Creeks Brewing, Bendistillery, and Bethany’s Global Fusion at the finish line.