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  • Philadelphian Perspectives: Cocodona 250, Recap

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    Philadelphian Perspectives: Cocodona 250, Recap

    Philadelphian Perspectives is our new series in name, but a concept that has been authentic to us for the last 2 decades: highlighting the individuals who give the Philadelphia Running Community its flavor. A lot of us know our favorite Philly races, as well as bucket–list competitions for which we are willing to travel. We’ll cover all of those topics with Perspectives, hoping these accounts from your fellow runners are inspiring and relatable. 


    We recently caught up with Philadelphia Runner Rachel Bambrick for an insight, in her own words, into her experiences with this past year’s Cocodona 250. As originally shared on Rachel's personal blog: Rachel Runs On.


    Banner photo credit: Scott Rokis @scottrokisphoto



    When trying to think of how to recap my Cocodona Chapters, this poem I wrote immediately came to mind. But before you read, I wanted to share some background on how it came to be. Back in April of this year, as I was putting the final preparations on my Cocodona training, Gagz reached out to me to see if I would be interested in being a guest on his podcast when I got back from the race. I was immediately excited and honored, but then the imposter syndrome sunk in. “Who am I to be on a podcast?” “What do I even have to share?” I thought to myself. 


    Photo credit: Scott Rokis @scottrokisphoto


    It wasn’t until I was out on the course in Arizona with one of my pacers and crew members, Jesse Keenan, when I started to find my voice. I shared with him that I was going to potentially be a podcast guest, but that I wasn’t sure I was worthy. As we climbed Mingus Mountain, with the sun rising all around us, we started chatting. We discussed concepts of masculinity and femininity, what it means to be “strong” or “gritty,” and the continual small number of female ultrarunners at most races despite the huge successes of top female ultrarunners around the world. I shared how I love this sport, how I love the grand adventures it takes me on, and how there is something truly special in pushing yourself to your limit and then continuing even further. I also shared that despite all this love, I don’t always see myself in the sport of ultrarunning. Too often the sport and the races within it focus on the toughness, the darkness, the grittiness of it all. But that’s not why I run. I love the joy in it, the connections you make, the silliness, the sparkle. 


    And that’s when it hit me. This is my story. The balance between the strength and the softness. Between the glitter and the grit. That’s where the sport feels like home to me. This is what I hope I can share with the world, to help others find their way to the sport of ultrarunning. I hope that they too can see themselves sitting right here, in the balance between strength and softness, and realize the magic that lives there.



    I wipe iridescent glitter from my sweat soaked cheeks. Strength in softness.


    Tears of gratitude, fatigue, and frustration fall from my face onto the dusty trail. Strength in softness.


    My rainbow tutu blows in the wind as I dart through switchbacks. Strength in softness.


    My smile widens as I share a positive mantra with a runner while both struggling up a climb. Strength in softness.


    Color coordinated race nails flash in and out of vision while my arms pump ever forward. Strength in softness.


    I peer down at yellow smiley face socks and confetti sneakers, both caked in dirt and mud. Strength in softness.


    A giggle bubbles up from somewhere deep within while I run across the finish line. Strength in softness.



    Photo credit: Scott Rokis @scottrokisphoto




    But first, not so fun fact time… Did you know only about 23% of ultramarathon runners identify as female? And while this number has been steadily growing year after year, the ultrarunning world is clearly still very male dominated. Many folks who do not identify as male do not see themselves in this space. It doesn’t feel like a place where they “fit.” I felt that way for years, and still often do, despite having overwhelmingly positive experiences in the ultra world and having met so many incredible people across the gender spectrum. But that fear of the space not being for me and not feeling like I saw myself there, kept me from trying for too long.


    I feel that the more opportunities we have to see others like us in this sport, the more folks will feel welcomed into it, and the more diverse the community will continue to grow to be. With the support of HOKA, I’m thrilled to announce, “Women In Ultrarunning: A Series”! This will be a 4-part series on ultrarunning, designed for individuals who identify as female. We will cover topics including: mental strategies, hills & technical trails, and nutrition. Runs will begin at 1 hour in length, and increase by 30 minutes each month (with options to shorten routes if needed). Pacing will be casual and conversational (think close to 13 min/mi on the trails). HOKA will be on hand supporting with snacks, giveaways, and maybe even some special prizes! The series kicks off on January 7th at 8am, meeting at Valley Green Inn in the Wissahickon.


    Photo credit: Scott Rokis @scottrokisphoto


    I hope this series creates a space for women to come together, learn from one another, and see themselves within the sport of ultrarunning. I also hope it is a catalyst to increase female registration for the Dirty German Endurance Fest in May of 2024. Dirty German typically has a similar female registration rate as mentioned above. I would love to see registration hit a gender parity this year (50/50), who’s with me?!


    I hope to see you at the first run on Jan 7th! Register HERE


    Hit me up with any and all questions!


    Looking to take on an ultra adventure of your own? Rachel is now a UESCA Certified Ultrarunning Coach! She is currently taking athletes of all abilities and experience levels. Reach out to her via her website to learn more!


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