Without the help and support of friends and family, where would you be as an athlete? Many of us need the kindness and motivation from our peers to get outside on those challenging days or to push ourselves to sign up for our first race.
During the past year, many of our support systems have been tested. As a result of social distancing, plus confusion over the pandemic, those of us who thrive on the company of others have felt somewhat depleted. To combat this and build up our community, we've partnered up with one of our top triathletes, Laurin Thorne, to create The 5k Giveaway!
The contest will take place from September 15th - 22nd and aims to promote the inclusion of women in endurance sports and raise morale in our entire community. You do not have to be a female to participate, just as long as you're having fun! To enter, run a 5k outdoors during the week and post your Strava stats to Instagram, showing you got the job done. A box of Ultra Energy Waffles and a Näak x Ciele cap will be sent to one lucky winner at the end of the week!
Having two powerful women taking charge and leading the contest, it was only fair to get a quick interview. Laurin and Alexandra give us an insight into why these contests are so important for wellness and inclusion within our communities by discussing their experiences as female endurance athletes.
What, initially, got you into the world of endurance sports?
Laurin: Both of my parents competed in Ironmans when I was very young, so I was introduced to the sport early on. For as long as I can remember I would race in the local community triathlons just as something fun to do with my summer. I was enrolled in a swim club when I was 5 years old. When I was 13 years old, I discovered my natural ability to run by entering in track meets and breaking Western Canadian records within my first few races - solely based on swimming fitness.
A few years later I raced in the Junior Elite Triathlon Series (age 16-19), which is staged in the summer all over Canada. When I put my swimming and running together, I placed well enough in triathlons that I was asked to join Canada’s Rising Star program. Because of how I raced in those summers, I was offered a spot at the National Performance Centre in Victoria, and this got me to where I am today.
Alexandra: After being diagnosed with PTSD - Chronic Depression, I started trail running. I was a huge hiker before and my work always brings me in nature. I learned at the hospital how running is known to be the best sport to do when you live with mental illness so I decided to combine my love of the trails with running. Ultra trail running came later when I became obsessed with doing long distances on my feet. It made me spend more time in nature, and that’s where I feel safe, so the longer I can be out there the better!
How important is it to promote sports, particularly endurance sports, to the women in our community?
L: A fact is that girls drop out of sports during high school and university. A lot of this has to do with body image and low confidence. It only takes a few females to encourage those around them to get other women involved. Sport brings women together and creates a solid community of people who want to better themselves and explore what their bodies can offer. With a strong community comes that confidence boost- that decreases the social stigma that women shouldn’t be participating in sport.
A: I remember a few years back when I was a photographer at a river kayaking competition and during the podiums, I found out that the first woman got a prize cut of 30% compared to the first man. It made me upset because I couldn’t understand why. There was no real answer and so I was continuously told multiple excuses.
We have amazing women athletes, or women who aspire to get into sports, particularly endurance sports and the more we promote and create a safe and inclusive environment, the more women are going to be joining us on the trails competitively or leisurely.
What are some of the challenges women might face when entering the world of endurance sports?
L: I think it’s important to remember that people will always clap for you when you are trying. It doesn't matter how fast you go, how strong you are, or what you look like. But rather the guts and grit you have to go out and do it, and no one can discourage that effort. There are going to be days where your body is sore and motivation is at a low, but keeping in mind how far you’ve come and your long-term goal can help get you out the door.
A: My biggest challenge entering the world of ultra running was a lack of confidence. I still struggle with it and it’s due to fear of not being able to go the long distances, to keep up with my friends or not being fit enough. I realized quickly that the trail running community is such a fun and family-like community. I still struggle with my confidence, but knowing that I can reach out to anyone for training tips and such is huge.
Have you noticed any changes in the roles, or numbers of women, participating in endurance sports since you’ve been competing?
L: In the 2016 and 2020 Olympics, it was the Canadian women who dominated at swimming. Those were the first times where the men were in the women’s shadows at swimming, and I thought it was brilliant. Seeing the proud Canadians over the years have increased female swim club enrollment in the country- it definitely gets my motivation up!
A: Definitely! It’s funny because women perform a lot better than men on long distances (exceeding the 100-mile mark) and we have been noticing it on huge trail races across the world. I’ve noticed such a huge boost from the year before on the start line of many of my races and it’s really inspiring to see.
What are some tips you would give to the people in our community who want to participate in this challenge but have little experience running?
L: If constant running makes you feel a bit uneasy, turn it into a walk-run! You’re still getting mileage in when you’re walking, it’s just easier on the body. Try intervals like ‘3min run, 1min walk’ or ‘9min run/2min walk’ or ‘14/1’. Whatever interval that works for you!
A: It doesn’t matter what time you did. As long as you just get out there and enjoy it, that’s what counts. You may walk a few meters and that’s totally fine, don’t put too much pressure and have fun. Bonus if you run more!
What do you hope to gain with this giveaway?
L: If we can get a few people out the door who haven’t ran for a while, I would call that a huge win. This is about having fun and playing part in an active community.
A: I really hope we can our community out there and having fun in the city or on the trails. Running is so much fun and it’s so accessible.
Is the contest open to everyone in our community?
L: You bet it is! There are no limitations or barriers here!
A: Yes! We decided to do a 5k challenge so that it can be accessible to everyone!
Laurin Thorne is one of Näak’s top professional triathletes. Based out of Victoria, BC, she began making a name for herself with her numerous podium finishes in the Jr. National Series. Since then, she has continued to progress, having multiple notable finishes in the Continental Cups along the way. Click Here to read more about Laurin and her accomplishments. Follow along with all of Laurin’s progress on her Instagram @laurinthorne.
Alexandra Côté-Durrer recently joined Näak as our Community Manager. She is an avid runner, trail runner, budding cyclist, and avid hiker, among a myriad of other hobbies. Having a deep passion for endurance and outdoor activities, her involvement in the Näak team is sure to be a great match. A great future is ahead of us, and we cannot wait to find out more. To view Alexandra’s photography, check out her Instagram page @alexcdphotography, and look for her work on the Näak Instagram page @naakbars.