Embracing the Trails with SportsShoes x The North Face
Written By: SportsShoes
As a woman belonging to an ethnic minority, I have always embraced opportunities that push me out of my comfort zone and challenge societal stereotypes. Running was something that I was good at and did continuously up until the time I started working. Then life just took over and all the discipline went out the window. I then got back into running after seven or eight years, when I was going through a divorce. It helped with my heightened anxiety and depression at the time. I still recall how on each run I was able to process my thoughts and emotions, trust me, there was a lot of that (!) – but, after each run, it literally felt as if a weight was being lifted off my shoulders.
Five years on, I am still running! I am not even half as good or disciplined as I used to be, but I enjoy it and honestly, runner’s high really does exist – I feel great after a run. If you do not believe me, try it for yourself!
Even though I was taking part in races and even ran the London Marathon twice, I had never ventured into the realm of trail running until recently – it had never crossed my mind.
This blog post aims to share my exhilarating experience as an ethnic minority participant in my first trail run, highlighting the unique perspectives, challenges, and triumphs that unfolded throughout my journey.
The Decision to Explore Trail Running
For me, trail running represented a beautiful combination of my love for nature and the desire to push my physical and mental boundaries. Despite initial doubts and uncertainties, I decided to take the plunge and signed up for my first trail race, the Burnsall 10km (Part of the Due North Trail Race Series), determined to conquer the trails, both literally and metaphorically.
Preparing for the Challenge
Preparing for a trail run involved more than just regular road running. I researched the terrain, luckily, I was gifted the appropriate gear by SportsShoes and The North Face, and incorporated strength and endurance training to adapt to the unpredictable conditions of the trails.
The trail run took place a day after Ramadan (a month where Muslims refrain from food and water between sunrise and sunset), so I did my training while fasting. This was difficult and I could not always stick to my training plan due to being exhausted from a day of fasting. I was also abroad for work for two weeks, which put more demands on my time, and unfortunately, training took a back seat.
As an ethnic minority, I was aware that my presence at the race might be a rare sight in this predominantly white sport, but I was determined to prove that diversity and inclusion go hand in hand with athletic pursuits.
The Trail Run Experience
On race day, excitement and nervousness coursed through my veins as I stood at the starting line. I noticed the predominantly white crowd, which made me acutely aware of being one of the few ethnic minorities participating. However, the friendly camaraderie among runners quickly made me feel welcome, erasing any lingering doubts. We shared our goals, fears, and aspirations, creating an atmosphere of inclusivity and support.
Navigating the Unfamiliar Terrain
As the trail unfolded beneath my feet, I encountered various challenges unique to trail running. Uneven surfaces, steep inclines, and unpredictable weather tested my endurance and agility. I love the outdoors and have trekked to Broad Peak Basecamp, K2 Basecamp and Everest Basecamp, so I thought that the varied terrain would not phase me. I was wrong! It’s a whole different skill when you are having to run on the varied terrain as opposed to walking at a steady pace.
To further add to the difficulty and staying true to the British weather, it rained throughout the whole race! Though physically demanding, these obstacles became powerful metaphors for the obstacles I have faced in my life as an ethnic minority and a divorced woman. With every step, I broke down personal barriers and defied stereotypes, proving that ethnicity, mental health issues and relationship status do not define capability.
My Trail Running Kit
Aside from my determination and the positivity from my fellow runners, my kit from SportShoes and The North Face was great. My VECTIV™ Infinite II Trail Running shoes by The North Face were an absolute life saver. Parts of the trail were extremely muddy, and the puddles were a lot deeper than I’d expected. My shoes were completely soaked but within minutes they were dry again, ready for me to run into my next puddle! The quick drying function together with the non-slip soles really helped me on the slippery terrain. The VECTIV's are also super light and do not weigh you down, the ankle support on them was great too. This particular VECTIV model also has the most aggressive grip in the range, so I definitely recommend these shoes for a trail runner, especially in the UK.
I must also give a special mention to my windproof and waterproof running jacket. Lime green is a colour I would never pick, but this jacket looked so chic. I got so many compliments on it from my fellow runners, not only did it keep me dry, but it was also a great conversation starter!
The Beauty of the Outdoors & Moments of Empowerment and Connection
The most memorable part of my trail run was running along a river. The sound of the flowing water and the rain drops falling into the river was so relaxing. The atmosphere suddenly became serene. As a Londoner, I appreciate being away from the hectic city life and in the outdoors. I have a stressful job and have had a few stressful years in life, so being in the outdoors helps me relax and reset.
Throughout the race, I encountered fellow runners who, despite our differences, shared the same passion for the sport. We encouraged one another, exchanged stories, and fostered a sense of unity that transcended race or ethnicity. These interactions served as a poignant reminder of the strength we possess when we come together as a diverse community.
The euphoria that engulfed me as I crossed the finish line was indescribable. In that moment, I realised that my journey had been about much more than completing a race; it was a testament to resilience, determination, and breaking societal barriers. And being completely honest with you, I was also glad the race was over!
By participating as an ethnic minority in the trail running community, I not only challenged stereotypes but also paved the way for others to embrace their passions fearlessly.
My first trail run was an unforgettable experience that reshaped my perspective on running, diversity, and personal growth. It showed me the power of embracing new challenges and breaking down barriers.
It never crossed my mind to ever run a trail race, and that too in gear kindly gifted to me by SportsShoes and The North Face! I am thankful to have had this opportunity and hope that through my journey, others will be inspired, regardless of their ethnicity or circumstances, to pursue their dreams boldly and contribute to a more inclusive and diverse trail running community.
My name is Sabba Mirza, I work as a Data Privacy Lawyer (yes, that is the GDPR stuff) and am also a Divorce Coach for ethnic minority women. I am working towards my Level 4 Diploma in Counselling. In my spare time, I love to take part in local and international hikes and races. My goal is to inspire and encourage others to pursue their dreams and reach their full potential.
You can follow Sabba and all her running adventures here