Spartan Obstacle Racing Empowers Women

Ordinary Women Being Extraordinary

Emily LeRoux, is the driving force behind Spartan Women and the newly appointed global ambassador for Spartan Races. She talked to me about Spartan and how it helps empower women.

‘In my early 20s I was a rower. I trained with other women and we were empowered as we managed work and new careers with rowing and we pushed ourselves hard in Salford Keys in Manchester. By the time I met my husband, got married and had children (I’ve got two boys who are now aged seven and four), I found rowing was too time consuming, work was demanding more of my time and of course I had young children to care for. I kept fit with mountain biking and some running.

‘Seven years ago work with a global recruitment company, Michael Page, gave me an opportunity to move to Japan. I launched a running club after work and it was a great way to socialise and break down cultural barriers, we had 120 members and organised two races a year. I’m passionate about empowering women and noticing a lack of support in business I also set up the networking circle, ‘Mums In Business Tokyo’. It whilst in Japan that I also discovered Cross Fit, going three or four times a week to keep fit, and it was there that I became immersed in a fantastic ex-pat community, including Joe De Senna, the current CEO of Spartan. Spartan came along at just the right time for me.

‘I’m now the driving force behind Spartan Women and I work on partnerships and sponsorships.  There’s no typical working week for me and I’m lucky enough to work at home as well as one day a week in the office. I also travel, for example, going to the Stade de France for a weekend of Spartan training.

‘Like a lot of busy women, I fit in exercise where I can, for example after dropping the boys to school going to the gym for an hour or two, and squeeze in my run. I prefer to get my training done in the morning and I always take two days off a week. It makes a big difference if I have a Spartan race ahead, a goal to aim for, as this means I have to train and every week and that make a plan.

All-round fitness

‘I’m not that keen on running, but that’s not a problem where Spartan is concerned. All you need is to be able to run 5K and have a decent all-round fitness, strength and flexibility (which you’ll get from going to the gym regularly or going to classes). The thing that makes Spartan great is that you will always be supported by others. Spartan courses offer a level playing field where  you can excel in different parts and there are no barriers; it’s open to all, old, young, able or not able bodied, male and female.

Strong from Spartan

‘Spartan can mean different things to different people. There are age group competitors who are super-fit and others who just join in for fun. I love the fact that I’m able to move quickly along the monkey bars. Before Spartan this was something I thought I’d left behind me in the playground.

‘I’ve found that racing Spartan is great for work too. As I said when you’re on the Spartan course, it’s a level playing field and hierarchy doesn’t play a part the way it does in the office.  And the nature of the sport is about supporting each other, for example helping each other over obstacles, on monkey bars, or jumping through fire, so it’s fantastic for building team bonds. On top of that there are the fitness, health and wellbeing benefits and there’s plenty of research to show that a healthier workforce is happier and there’s less absenteeism.

Spartan for Women

‘When one woman helps another, amazing things can happen, and that’s what Spartan is all about. It’s also a place where you can discover an inner strength, where you will push boundaries, using your power and agility, and finding your mental fortitude. We’re in the ‘Me Too’ era, we’re fighting inequalities and the gender pay gap and it’s the right time to give women a voice in all areas of their life which can start by building confidence out there on the course. The competitive, team-building disciplines of sport and the skills that women can harness to achieve career success work together. I’m proud that Spartan has its own community of women and a facebook group where women are supporting each other and being each other’s cheerleaders.

‘I really think that Spartan can be a mental and physical catalyst for transformation in all areas of your life.  As a member of the Spartan community you’ll get support, meet new people, and create a new network. Spartan races are held in 30 countries and around one million take part annually, and contrary to what many think, 40 per cent of our racers are women – and the number is growing. We find that women tend to take part in races and train together and women are helping to grow Spartan as a family sport. Joe, who set it all up is a family man and Spartan is now open to kids and families as a fantastically healthy way to spend your weekend with your children.’

Give Spartan a Go

April 7/8 sees the launch of Spartan Races in the UK at St Clere, which is 40 minutes by train from central London and within sight of the M25. Situated on the scenic North Downs and known for its rolling hills – this beautiful yet challenging course will be host to a Sprint and Kids distance. Plus, new for this year, we’ve added a Super to give you more opportunity to go for the hallowed Trifecta! Enter here.

 

The fire jump brings out the Spartan in everyone!

Fiona’s Spartan Day…

Back in 2013, I tried out a Spartan Training Day. You can read about my experience here.

 

Guest Blog: Seven Years to go from Zero To 100-mile Ultra Runner

Ordinary Women Being Extraordinary

Victoria Fraser, a 42 year-old pharmacy technician and ultra runner from Oxfordshire  sent me her blog. She’s single and has one daughter, Heidi, age 15.  She started running with a five-mile race in 2010. Seven years later she’d completed a 100-mile off-road race. And her appetite for distance hasn’t waned…

“Did I find ultra running or did running find me?  It was like a calling, one of those things that fitted into my life, without me really trying to fit it in. Only twice before in my life has that happened. The first time, when I was a dancer, and the second, when I started my pharmacy career.

’And my introduction to running was accidental. I never planned to do it  Some people have a  bucket list in life often including running a marathon, I never had this and I really had no wish to run big distances, or even a Parkrun. It just happened!

‘It began at work when a colleague’s daughter was running a five-mile charity fun run at Blenheim Palace, I said I’d sponsor her. Then without thinking, I said I’d do it too. ‘What? Why did I say that?’ I hadn’t run since school. I certainly wasn’t unfit – I’d been a dancer up to the age of 20 and then did a lot of cycling to keep fit – but since becoming a mum I lived in a whirl of crazy activity and hadn’t followed a structured fitness regime.

‘So, the five-mile fun run day arrived April 2010 Because it was only five miles I didn’t train – no need right? Only five miles? Ouch!  No proper training and not wearing the right running shoes taught me the hard way. My lungs were screaming after the first mile, but I still finished in just over an hour and was buzzing that I’d done it. When I got home, still aching, I was looking for more…

‘The next step was to enter an off-road 10K, the Candleford Canter, organised by Alchester Running Club in Bicester. Every weekend I increased the mileage by just half to one mile usually running twice at weekends . I completed the 10k in just over an hour.  Without a great master plan I just started to run more. Gradually, as I ran further, and continued to refine my training, I felt confident to set bigger goals, and very soon , six months later  I ran  an off-road half marathon.

’I was becoming a runner, and it was now more part of my life. And soon I made running friends by joining Runners World online  community, and as runners do, chat about going further, and different races started. And it was in one of these chats the idea was planted to run a marathon. But I was quickly drawn to the ‘dark side’ of ultra running – it was like a magnet for me. My friend, Nick had talked about a 35-mile he had done and it captured my imagination. I knew I had to do it. I entered a marathon in January 2012, but only to use as a stepping stone to the world of ultras. I completed the marathon in January 2012, and was already looking ahead to the Northants Shires and Spires  35-mile race. With this done, the next goal, the Centurion North Downs Way 50 soon followed, it was taking place in August 2012.

‘I was gripped by distance, trails and hills. There was so much to take in, navigation, technical off-road running and nutrition but I was keen to learn and met the right people, asked the right questions and soon I’d become a fully fledged ultra runner.

‘As a mum,  fitting in training could be difficult. And the longer the races and the longer the training runs the more I needed to be organised. My daughter Heidi, who was just seven when I started running, and saw me going out for a short run and her being able to come and watch to mum going to an event and having to leave the night before and not re-appearing until Saturday night! Fitting in more miles has got easier as she’s got older  and early morning runs done before the day’s duties at weekends. Now she’s a teenager and having a mum that runs 100 miles is quite cool! I believe I’m teaching my daughter that there are no limits and if she really wants to do something then she can. Hard work, training, persistence and confidence in yourself will result in achievements.

‘I continued to race in 2013 and 2014 and my body grew stronger and confidently covered the distance. In 2015 I wanted to push it further and so I entered the 100K Race to the Stones. There was no time pressure and I just wanted to cover the distance,  and it felt good knowing I could still run further without injury or issue.

‘By this time I was getting good at knowing which kit worked for me, and how to get fuel,  hydration and pacing right. I’m not fast but I’m a consistent runner. I pace steadily and strongly. I was also learning to trust my mind,  and to respect the fine line between being blasé and thinking nothing will go wrong, and knowing how to push hard.

‘In 2016 I set myself my biggest goal to date, a grand slam of 50-mile races, adding up to 400 miles and 27,000 ft elevation in total. I had a step-by-step approach, and broke each race down into manageable chunks, not daring to think about the next race. It was an amazing year of running! And as I suspected once completed, my appetite to run further was still there.

‘So in 2017 I decide to reach for 100 miles in one go. This was another step up and now I had to consider crew, a pacer, and drop bags – I had to have a plan. I chose the South Downs Way 100 in June. Two months before I’d run the South Downs Way 50 and had knocked a lot of time off the previous race time, so I knew I was in good shape. The night run was fantastic. I knew the second half of the course which would be at night so this helped, and my trusted friend, James acted as my pacer and confidence builder, reminding me I could do it.

‘When it came to the night, it all went to plan. The weather was prefect, there was a full moon all night and I couldn’t have asked for more help than I had. There were tough moments – steep climbs and hallucinations – and there were beautiful moments – looking back over the hills at Southease to see tiny bobbing head torches in he distance!  I arrived in Eastbourne and crossed the line at 8am on Sunday morning, severely sleep-deprived but elated. Later, as I sat with my cup of tea in the sports hall, I smiled to myself as I looked at my 100-mile running buckle resting on my knee, and remembered it had all started with a five-mile run, and once again asked myself, did I find running, or did it find me?

‘As for what’s next. I want to keep seeing what I can do. I hope to complete the Centurion slam of four 100-mile races in 2018, and then I hope to progress into mountain ultras such as Tenerife Blue Trail or Transvulcania Ultra, both of which are on volcanic mountain terrain. The journey continues.’