Just over a year ago, Elizabeth Reese, Co-Race Director for Rainshadow Running trail series, decided to update their aid stations. If you’ve ever run or volunteered at a Rainshadow Running race, you know they are as much trail parties as they are races. With beautiful scenery, exceptional volunteers, pizza, beer, and live music, there is something for everyone. However, as an accomplished trail and ultrarunner herself, Reese knew something was missing for many runners. That something was feminine hygiene products. 

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The 11th essential

As trail runners, we get a lot of practice taking care of ourselves in the outdoors. We often carry our 10 essentials, and then some. Women in their menstruating years won’t venture far off into the backcountry without a tampon, pad, or menstrual cup. Many female trail runners are accustomed to carrying these products around as if they were the 11th essential. If you ask any woman trail runner, they likely have a hilarious or hellish story about an experience when they were without. Reese explains she has “been out during races when friends have started their period unexpectedly, or early. Being without a tampon is awful.”

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Menstruation can be a source of strength, power, and weather protection. Cherokee culture viewed it as a source of feminine strength. Roman philosopher Pilny the Elder stated that menstruating women have the power to negate hail storms and lightning. In the context of outdoor culture, our periods can protect us. Although a Diva Cup would be the more environmentally friendly option, I think the pragmatic use of tampons is often underrated–especially for female endurance athletes. Tampons can also stop nose bleeds, start fires, and clog leaky water bottles in the wilderness (not recommended for this use during a trail race). 

Rainshadow Running has races from 25K to 100 miles (160K) in beautiful trails throughout the Pacific Northwest. It’s no surprise that female runners may require a feminine hygiene product when they are out for hours or days at a time.  A runner could need a tampon just as much as they need those pretzels (or beer and fireball at some aid stations). What is a surprise is that this hasn’t been the norm all along. 

In the pre-race email, Reese explains that feminine hygiene products will be at the aid stations. However, she wonders whether runners are aware. Many female runners are accustomed to carrying the 11th essential with them at all times. Reese hopes she isn’t the only race director updating the aid stations in this way. If they aren’t already, she would love to see other races do the same.

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