Train and Race Like a Mother

Samantha Pruitt at the 2017 Sea Otter Classic finish line.

This experience of feeling these two recent worlds collide is beyond beautiful.

By Samantha Pruitt, Founder & CEO, Race SLO

Lately I have been finding great joy and satisfaction in the fact that both athletic product companies and the outdoor athlete media pipelines have finally caught on to what has been our reality for years in the sports training-racing scene. World wide millions of women, sisters, daughters, mothers and even grandmothers have been taking the athletic world by storm! It’s been slow gradual progress since the 1972 passing of Title IX, but in the last five years of my life I have witnessed an unprecedented shift in the podium.

In 2016, women represented 57% of event fields nationwide (9.7 million finishers) compared to 34% of fields (2.5 million finishers) in 1996, according to Running USA; an incredible & impressive participation increase.

Besides witnessing more girls and women training or racing these days, sales of women specific products now make up 63% of all active wear sales! The economic health of the whole industry is being fed by women who purchased $5.7 billion worth of Nike products (20% growth last year), $1 billion worth of Under Armour (43% growth), $1.4 billion in snow & ski sport brands and MASSIVE growth in REI women specific product sales of $88 million last year alone (33% above every other category). Women and girls are not only driving their bodies up the ranks in every type of sport worldwide, but are changing the entire space as business owners, team leaders and game changing influencers.

REI promotional ad for the Force of Nature campaign.

The “XX Factor” is what it’s being called by Outside Magazine or “Force of Nature” as REI coined it. Whatever it takes to tell the Woman Athlete story, this story is long overdue and deserves plenty of love.

Out getting dirty during my solo Mother’s Day mountain bike ride, I can’t help but be flooded with a rainbow of reflections. Thoughts of my own strong-willed mother and invaluable empowering female mentors layer on top of ideas about the role I play in the lives of my son, three step children and five grandchildren. For me, this experience of feeling these two recent worlds collide is beyond beautiful.

Obligatory SLO Marathon + Half pre-race hug & kiss with my son.

One, the journey of the female athlete over my lifetime and how it’s quickly changing our society.

Two, my personal path of finding endurance sports later in age as a mother and then using it to change my body, life and now the lives of all the others that I touch. I have affectionately label this era as #WomenAreCrushingIt. Breaking all stereo-type molds, crushing all boundaries, truly changing the face & body of an entire industry.

I do not see this shift as a scientific chromosome combination or anything that has to be forced. This long evolving process of females in every age, race, background, shape and size is simply Mother Nature at her best. Through the purely organic process of becoming a human and being birthed from a Mother we all share the power of motherhood too. No matter your experience of being mothered or of mothering others, we all are connected to the power of the feminine. Equally we can all access the spectrum of traits traditionally held by males.

Samantha with the Grizzly Youth Academy girls, recipients of the 2017 Running USA Youth Program of the Year.

Since the beginning of humankind the tribal mother has been critical to the success of her family, her village community and the world at large. Woman’s instinctual wisdom and evolutionary skills have allowed us all to progress as a civilization. Today’s current cultural shift of embracing strong athletic bodies and intelligent expressive voices of women and mothers will no doubt continue to inspire the next generation of all genders more than we can possibly imagine.

Though my own mother died of cancer many, many years ago, her immigrant ‘stop at nothing’ influence upon me will live forever. My own contribution of motherhood, grandmotherhood and female mentorhood are alive and well because of the fact that I am free to define those roles as I choose. I love surrounding myself with other women and mentoring girls who are choosing a new path like I have. One that provides opportunity, adventure, self-exploration and challenge to ourselves and our communities.

Becoming an endurance athlete myself at age 35, I worked hard to peel off any unauthentic layers both physically and emotionally. I wanted freedom badly. So when I look around, I read about, I meet or I partake in sports and adventures I am not surprised at all to see this change. However, I am grateful that others too are seeing and hearing about it. These amazing stories need to be shared and celebrated in order for others to get inspired and also to embrace more changes. We female athletes have risen up with the support of our husbands, our Dads, our sons and our brothers on this journey too. We are strong, we are brave, we are wise and WE ARE CRUSHING IT! #WomenAreCrushingIt

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