Women Will Run 50 Miles

We need to make space and invite them

By Amy Nelson (RCTC Board Member and Ultra Runner) 

The Baker Trail UltraChallenge 50-miler (The Baker) is one of Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy’s (RCTC’s) headliner events.  Taking place every August since 2005, this 50-mile foot race draws ultra runners from near and far. The event has a homey atmosphere, with competitors coming back year after year, making it feel like a family reunion of sorts each August.  

There was one element missing to this race. Women. Where were the women?  For eighteen years, our race averaged 80% men and 20% women. (This ratio is typical for ultra races of the 50-mile and greater distance.)

Over the past three years, we invested time and energy into changing that metric. As it turns out, women will show up if given the space and the encouragement.  In 2023, we celebrated an unprecedented number of women runners, 52% of the field was female!  We achieved this milestone by examining the needs of women and working tirelessly to understand the barriers they face. With that knowledge, we made changes to our marketing, added new elements (e.g. training runs, info sessions, relentless recruiting, raffles) and ultimately made the race appealing to both men and women

Our work is not done. New for 2024: our registration process has been amended, guaranteeing equal spots for women and men.  While this step seems simple, very few races (none that I know of at the 50-mile distance) bother to alter their registration to ensure gender parity. The hugely popular ultras are happy to sell out in a matter of hours (sometimes minutes) and cash in on the hype of a high-demand event with little to no priority placed on a diversified field of participants. We hope to serve as a role model.

Also new this year: a partnership with Hilma running shoes. Company founder and owner, Brooke Torres, likes what she sees with The Baker and the priority we place on gender parity.  Brooke’s generous shoe donation (in the form of coupon codes) will make for fun raffles at the training runs and the race itself. Thank you, Brooke! 

The Baker 50-miler is filling up fast. The men's division sold out in less than 24 hours on March 1, when registration opened. The women's division has 21 spots left, which will be snapped up well before the August 24th event. Run the race once and you'll understand why we have so many people coming back, year after year.  

This August I'll run my sixth Baker 50-miler. I'm trying to catch up with Miriam Fein, who has logged ten finishes, a mind-blowing 500 miles of Baker races!

Links to more information: 

  1. Registration for The Baker  
  2. Participant Information (including free training runs in July) 
  3. Equity and Inclusion Guidelines (this includes gender parity registration, nonbinary and transgender policies) 
  4. Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee (consider joining us!) 

Women's History Month Training Run, March 2023, hosted by RCTC and Public Lands of Cranberry. Photo by: Christina Montemurro

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