On March 1st, 2020 I will toe the line in Alaska to take part in the Iditarod Trail Invitational 350 Mile Human Powered Winter Ultramarathon. I will be partnering with Free To Run, a non profit that uses outdoor sports and adventure to empower women and girls in regions of conflict.
ITI 350 is a human powered race traveling on the legendary dog sled course. Athletes carry all necessary gear in a sled, everything needed to survive Alaska’s brutal terrain and potentially blistering sub zero temperatures. How did I get here…
It still seems like yesterday, something like 11 years ago when I ran my first mile. Heart pounding I felt like I was on the doorstep of possibility. Running was a catalyst of empowerment for my life, and as I dared to go longer and longer, that empowerment has trickled into everyday life giving me a confidence that simply did not exist before!
I am on another doorstep now, in a few months I will be in Alaska to see if I have the mental and physical strength to complete this race. Spoiler alert, I do! But I don't want just to complete the race, I want to THRIVE out there surrounded by frozen rivers and white mountains. What this sport has given me has been both humbling and empowering, it is something I want every woman and girl to have the opportunity to experience if they wish.
Free To Run provides this experience in a safe and empowering environment and we are raising funds to help them make this happen! ALL the proceeds from this fundraiser will go towards empowering girls from Iraq to Afghanistan to pursue outdoor adventures in many forms!
Let's break it down so you know where your amazing donation is going:
$25 buys a pair of sneakers for one of our participants
$50 covers the cost of sneakers and culturally appropriate training gear for one participant
$200 covers the cost of rent for one of our provincial safe houses- a safe space where our participants and alumni can come to work out in the gym, seek advice from staff, or just play volleyball with their friends!
$325 covers the salary of a trained coach to train and mentor a team of 30!
$500 covers the cost of a minibus to safely pick up and drop off the girls from their homes- this is KEY to family trust in the conflict zones we work in!
Having opportunities to experience the outdoors can be personally empowering, but mentorship is key to sharing this awesome gift of sport! I was 31 before I actually had a female mentor in my athletic life and it was a catalyst. Since then, I have been able to support women in my community on a deeper and more meaningful level. This is what Free to Run wants in their program as well. Through experience and mentorship women and girls continue to build each other up and create a force for positive change in their communities and beyond!
Participating in the program led to a...
30% increase in working as a volunteer,
35% increase in leading a group of people in doing a project or making an important decision at school and a
59% increase in taking the lead on projects at home.
In addition to improved social engagement and well-being, participants report a 52% increase in personal goal setting and reductions in feelings of stress or helplessness. They also note an improved sense of social cohesion, experiencing 47% more opportunities to meet young women and girls from other provinces
Come March, my heart will be so full (and most likely a little terrified) at the opportunity to compete with so many amazing athletes in such a beautiful and challenging landscape. I wanted it to mean more to the world than just my personal experience, thank you for taking the time to read my story. On an individual level I might not be able to make an impact on these women's and girls' lives, but I know together, WE WILL!