CANMORE – The motto for this year’s Rocky Mountain Soap Women’s Run, “kind heart, rebel soul,” didn’t take much time to have interpretations roll in from its participants.
One said, “Be strong like a stone but beautiful as a diamond,” while another said “Always be kind and live your life with adventures.”
Taking place at Canmore’s Nordic Centre next weekend (May 25-26), the 12th annual event is a “fun, unique and supportive environment” with a goal to inspire the next generation of girls to stick with sport for life.
“(The motto) means being strong, independent women and standing up for yourself and doing things your way, while also being kind to others and putting the goodness back in the world,” said Laurin Duncan, the race director.
Duncan said she expects about 3,000 runners from all over Canada and the U.S. at the weekend event, which offers a health and wellness expo with 35 vendors and the opportunity for girls and women of all fitness levels to run in a half marathon, 10-kilometre run/walk, 5-km run/walk, or 5-km stroller jog.
It’s in support of Fast and Female, a North American organization with a mission to inspire and empower girls and women to stay in sport.
For four years, Fast and Female has been involved in the Canmore women’s run and they host a fun run for girls ages five to 12 in conjunction. In the run, the girls do it with 30 Olympic, Paralympic, and elite athlete ambassadors in 500-metre and 2km fun runs.
The women sports ambassadors will have a stage to share their passion, values and message to girls about sport and healthy living for life.
“It’s a great event to get a bunch of girls together and out doing fun activities and getting to know other girls in the Bow Valley,” said Canmore’s Sara Poidevin, one of Canada’s top young cyclists and Fast and Female ambassador. “It’s important for ambassadors to support the event and promote girls in sport.”
Poidevin attended events by Fast and Female growing up, which was founded in 2005 by Canmore’s Olympic gold medallist Chandra Crawford, where she met elite women athletes and learned their stories.
Now a decade later, the champion cyclist is passing on mentorship through Fast and Female and at the women’s run.
Duncan said Fast and Female is a “great fit” for the Rocky Mountain Soap Women’s Run.
“(Fast and Female’s) encouraging girls to pursue an active lifestyle and all venues of their lives further down the road,” said Duncan.
The goal of the weekend is to inspire the next generation of girls to continue with sport for life.
Statistics show that girls are six times more likely to leave sports than boys in their early teens.
According to Women’s Sports Foundation, an organization dedicated to creating leaders by ensuring all girls have access to sports, the reasons why girls drop out at a higher rate are lack of access, safety and transportation issues, social stigma, decreased quality of experience, cost, and lack of positive role models.
Fast and Female has a team of athletes and ambassadors driving to change the situation for young female athletes, such as Shelley Kuhn, managing director at SC Squared Strength and Conditioning.
For Kuhn, being part of Fast and Female is a “passion piece.”
“There’s a big drop out rate for 13-14 year olds (girls) where there is a huge change in the girls body and we’re encouraging them to understand the onset of puberty,” Kuhn said. “SC Squared’s mission aligns well with that of Fast and Female in terms of improving access to quality service and keeping girls healthy enough to continue in sports.”
On Saturday and Sunday mornings, the girls will be split into small groups, and run alongside their ambassadors and play games. Perhaps welcoming in the “kind heart, rebel soul” interpretations as extra inspiration.