A breakthrough for women’s ultra-running? by Anna Kim-Andersson

In a couple of days I will compete in the longest race I have ever run. 171 kilometres are waiting for me in the hilly landscape of Kullaberg in Southern Sweden. So what is on my mind at the moment? Of course I think about nutrition, gear and pace planning. But I am also thinking of how proud I am to be able to stand on the starting line as part of a growing community of ultra-running women.

This is my second year as an ultra-runner and I have had so much fun, both during the preparations and while running the races. To my surprise I have found that the longer I run the better it gets. I am happy for my results and I am eager to face my next race adventure. However, more interesting than my own experiences is the fact that 2019 has been a year of several astonishing female performances from marathon to ultra-running.

In January, British ultra-runner Jasmin Paris became the first woman to win the 429-kilometer Montane Spine Race in the upland areas of Scotland and England. She won after 83 hours out on the course, shattering the overall course record by 12 hours. This means that the current men’s record is 95 hours.

Maggie Guterl did an epic performance on Big’s Backyard Ultra 2019.
Photo: ©Irun4Ultra

For those of us who love the relatively new running concept “Backyard Ultra”, it has been amazing to follow American Maggie Guterl in Big’s Backyard Ultra 2019. In the famous backyard of race director Gary Cantrell, she recently became the first woman to win the entire competition after 60 laps and 60 hours of running, battling with New Zealander Will Hayward (almost) to the end. Read more about her achievement here (link to WIRED.com).

In October, American Camille Herron broke the world distance record in 24 hour running. She ran amazing 270,116 kilometres on the track in Albi, France. It seems like she also was battling with the men, to be the fastest runner in the 24h World Championship. For some hours it seemed possible, however in the end she had to give it up and focus on the women’s competition – where she was superior.

When it comes to female records we must not forget that Kenyan Brigid Kosgei also broke Paula Radcliffe’s 16-year-old marathon world record in October. The new world record is 2:14:04, which is one minute and 21 seconds faster than the previous one. How neat!

With all this said, I believe that something is happening. Not only regarding the very nature of female performances, but also when it comes to the attention directed at this. Men are still dominating the starting fields of marathons and ultra-running competitions, but female athletes are steadily increasing in numbers – and I am very glad to be a part of this.

Sofia Smedman will compete in the Kullamannen race again.
Photo: ©Sofia Smedman

One of the most demanding races you can run in Sweden is Kullamannen – with a length of 171 kilometers and 4300 meters in altitude. This year the starting field is larger than ever; 487 men and 57 women are attending the race. Earlier this autumn, I wrote about Sofia Smedman and myself in the blogpost Small talk before the Kullamannen +100 mile endurance race. Sofia won the women’s race two years ago and came 9th overall. Last year she was the 2nd woman and the 14th overall. Of course she runs for a new top performance this third year.

Attending Kullamannen is not about emplacement to me, but survival. Only 30 percent of the starting field normally reaches the finish line in Kullamannen. I believe that I must be a warrior on the course – to become one of the rare finishers.

Nevertheless, I’m proud of myself for daring this adventure. My race number is 548. Please follow me during the race if you want!

All competitors in Kullamannen 2019 can be followed live at the official legends tracking page.

The Kullamannen race finishes with three lapses, including 4300 meters in altitude, around the Kullaberg Peninsula. Kullaberg is also well-known for beautiful climbing.
Photo: ©Jonas Tufvesson

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