(Article originally published on our sister site endurance.biz in November 2023.) Entries are now open for next summer’s Threshold Trail Series, which features two popular ultra trail races in the UK – Race to the King and Race to The Stones.
More than 4,500 athletes are expected to take part, and Threshold Sports has set an ambition to achieve at least 50% female participation at its ultra marathons in 2024, and beyond.
Since 2013, the Threshold Trail Series has consistently welcomed a higher proportion of women than the industry standard. However, citing data from LetsDoThis, Threshold Sports notes that female participation across all running distances has declined by 10% since the Covid pandemic.
Threshold Sports also points to a 24% drop in female participation in ultras (distances greater than a marathon) compared to participation in shorter 5km events. Just one third of UK ultrarunners are currently female.
Threshold Sports aspires to reverse this trend and tackle the challenges to female participation in ultra-distance events through initiatives around health, safety, preparation and representation.
Threshold Sports’ new initiative – Ultra 50:50 – endeavours to achieve gender parity and set new industry standards to inspire, empower and enable women to take part in events at the toughest end of the running distance spectrum.
The Ultra 50:50 mission sees the event organiser partner with SheRACES, grass roots running groups, female runners, as well as those not already in the running community, to not only understand the challenges that prevent women from taking part, but to address these challenges.
Threshold Sports, hopes that by raising awareness of the challenges women face and showcasing the changes made to its events, it can provide a commercially sustainable blueprint for other event organisers that share this mission.
Experts working with Threshold Sports include:
Sophie Power, SheRACES Founder;
Emma Kirk-Odunubi, Performance Coach;
Dr Nicky Keay, Hormone Health Expert;
Dr Josephine Perry, Performance Psychologist; and
Tasha Thompson, founder of Black Girls Do Run.
Following research and consultation, the first phase of the campaign has identified five key areas of challenge for women:
Female representation & perceptions
Training & preparation
Access & support at the event
Safety & harassment
Menstrual health & the menopause
Over the coming months Threshold Sports will undertake a series of initiatives to tackle these challenges ahead of next summer’s events. This will include showcasing the inspiring stories of female runners, and helping to connect runners so that they can support each other during their training.
A series of pop-up running events in the lead up to the summer will continue to delve into the challenges to participation. Meanwhile, enhancements to the events next year will seek to support female participants on the next – or first – step on their running journey.
Sophie Power, SheRACES Founder, said “Women face many barriers to being on the start line. Some are societal, but some are put in place – often unknowingly – by races themselves.
“SheRACES conducted in-depth research on women’s experiences in racing and used this insight to develop the first set of guidelines for race organisers – helping them understand how to get more women on the start line, give us a better experience when we race and equally value our competition.
“These were adopted by Threshold last year and we are delighted that it has now launched the 50:50 campaign to further its commitment to equality.”
Nick Tuppen, CEO at Threshold Sports said “Our ambition is to achieve gender parity at the Trail Series, but it shouldn’t stop there.
“We have an incredible team of experts working with us, and what we learn and implement during this campaign could help to raise standards across the industry so that women are offered equal opportunities to fulfil their running potential.”
Threshold Sports’ Race to the King takes place on June 15, 2024, along Monarch’s Way, through the South Downs National Park to the ancient coastal village of Bosham, and on past Arundel Castle in West Sussex.
Race to the Stones is set for July 13-14, 2024, where 3,000 runners are expected to take on the UK’s oldest trail covering 50km or 100km to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Avebury Stone Circle in Wiltshire.