Ladies, We Are The Forest

Originally posted May 2014 on RunPrettyFar.com

Last week we launched a new tank of vintage crochet in a pale aqua hue. The design is delicate, not fussy. I love it so much the first thing I did in mine was run a 100miler with 40,000ft of elevation gain. For just shy of 38 hours I wore our pretty new tank matched with a pretty tough spirit, pun intended.

Back at my desk I received the following email from a retailer considering the new design: “I like them but I think most of our trail running crowd (80% of our customers) will find them too feminine.”  

My response? WTF.

I respect that store owners know their customers. So, this being true, do lady trail runners really feel that they cannot / should not dress overly feminine? Is there a conception that to be taken seriously as a hardcore mountain climber we must fit in with hipster approved shades of eggplant or olive? That hot pink belongs only to frivolous road runners? Perhaps this store owner is on to something as I recently read a blog where a well-known female trail runner stated that she wears pink, but assured readers it was only ‘worn ironically’.

Let me tell you how I feel about that.

When I ran my first trail race, it was love at first climb. Why? Because I had happily stumbled onto a rag-tag collection of non-conformist odd balls; the freaks and geeks of running. It was definitely not the cool club and if there was a ‘look’ – it was 80’s hand-me-down REI, not Patagonia perfect. To me, it felt like an instant homecoming because the forest has always been my place to be free. Much of my childhood was spent playing in the woods behind my house as an escape from school conformity and early social pressures. As an adult I felt I’d once again discovered ‘where the wild things are’.

I can’t believe we would destroy that purity by suggesting all the wild things dress and act alike.

I started Run Pretty Far because when I ran down the trail I didn’t see muted rust or brown. I saw the juicy red of Marciano cherries, the golden yellow of pineapple, crème lace in the ferns, robins egg blue in the sky, and provocative lime in the soft moss. I heard the voice of Julie Andrews singing as she spun and joyfully proclaiming the hills are alive. I felt the pull of this magic world – and it was undeniably feminine. I wanted to make something for us to wear as beautiful as this place we play in.

We – with our feminine charms and our melodic laugh and our hair thrown back and our nurturing warmth and our cruel tempers – we are the forest. We are Mother Nature, we are forest sprites, we are Sleeping Beauty. The forest is enchanted and who do you think makes it so? Every fern, moss, slick rock, rainbow, swamp flower, pine needle, and ounce of sticky sap is us. Men may come and play on our trails, but the forest heart is female.

So if you are a trail runner and your eyes light up when you see pink and lace and gold – then wrap yourself in it. Spider webs light with early morning dew like crystal chandeliers; the forest likes to sparkle too. Or, if you prefer subtle shades and purely practical gear, then honor that. The forest understands your need to move quietly and quickly without any extra attention.

Each of us is our own perfect blend of toughness and delicacy, inconsistencies and shared similarities. Annie Oakley charged in with leather and a gun, Scarlett protected herself with a shield of velvet jade finery; they each found the battle outfits that suited their needs. The cactus with tiny blush rose petals rules tough in the desert. The delicate  wildflowers of scarlet and royal purple reign the high Rockies. The exuberant orange sunflower towers proudly over the grassy plains.

Let no one tell us that there is only one way to look like a woman or only one way to run wild and free. Ladies, we are the forest. And in our home we can be exactly who we want to be.

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