Skip to content

Empowering Women: Transforming Pain into Trail Running Triumph

Empowering Women. Brittany Olson's How It All Started story for Run Tri Bike
Brittany Olson
Year started: July 2018
Next race: December 2, 2023 / Colossal Vail 50 Mile / Tucson, AZ
Favorite gear:

Rabbit Apparel

How It All Started? Where do I begin? There are so many places for me to start but as I tell the athletes I coach, you need to just start somewhere. As you read my story, understand that I didn’t know that I would wind up empowering women to chase their dreams. Life isn’t a straight path but comes with a lot of twists and turns. My life is no different, but I am here to tell you that regardless of where you started you can achieve your goals.

From Sports to Self-Doubt

I have been an athlete for as long as I can remember. There was always a ball in my hand and running was always my sports’ punishment. Beyond that, I was a people pleaser and perfectionist. Feeling out of place was always there as was constantly doing all the “shoulds”. I was busy making sure I didn’t piss anyone off and that everyone around me was happy. I’m not saying I was never happy, but I wasn’t me very often. Fast forward past those teenage years where I continued to excel at sports and make straight A’s.

Navigating Life’s Twists and Turns

I got married a couple of years after college because that’s what we do in the Midwest. Date someone for 2 years, get married, have babies, etc. Well, I did get pregnant eventually and had a miscarriage at 18 weeks where I delivered a little girl. I had a miscarriage 6 months later and the baby was about 7 weeks old. I didn’t know what to do while I was grieving. Divorce proceedings had begun and relied heavily on alcohol then punished my body in the gym and then repeated the cycle. It’s not a good place to be. I self-isolated. I pretended to be happy in front of people that way one would figure it out. Those close to me knew something was up but didn’t press.

Embracing Change: The Arizona Adventure

I ended up making a big change which I’m not an advocate of but I had to do something different. So I moved to Arizona thinking a change of scenery would do some good. In the beginning it was all new and I enjoyed the adventure. But then I slipped into the old drinking habits after making some ‘friends’. I needed to figure something out as I was tired of being tired.

While running with a friend, we decided that we were going to run a marathon. All the training I was doing was hard because of the Arizona heat. Then, I broke my foot 8 days before the race. I actually took that pretty well and was happy with the effort I had put in. I also realized, I don’t think I like road running for that long. That didn’t stop me from signing up for another marathon though so I could prove I could do it.

Discovering the Call of the Trails

In January 2018, I ran my first marathon in 3:55! That woke something up in me but I still didn’t like road running that far. I loved the physicality of it but I could tell something was missing. I still loved strength training and that’s not going to change. That same summer, I saw a group trail run posted on Facebook and that changed everything.

In July 2018, I ran at South Mountain with an Aravaipa group trail run and fell in love. I loved the dirt and rocks underneath my feet. The people I was running with did not look at their Garmin watches. They simply talked with each other and stopped and took pictures. This was the community I wanted to be a part of. Everyone was happy and welcoming. And after 3 years of living in Arizona, I had found my community…a bunch of dirtbags who I wouldn’t trade for anything.

From Road Marathon to Trail Ultra

Sadly (lol), I had already signed up for a 2nd road marathon in January 2019 but in the meantime I started racing on the trails and if you’re a trail runner, you know how those things escalate. I ran my first 50k in November 2018 and was signed up for my first 100k in February 2019. The road marathon would be used as a training run. Achieving a BQ was not a goal that I had but it happened. I knocked 31 minutes off last year’s time for a 3:24:04 and a BQ! When I looked at the pictures from that race in comparison to the prior year’s race, I could see two things. 1) I was physically in better shape. 2) I was happy. And 2 is where I think the biggest difference came from.

Empowering Women: A New Beginning

From there I’ve continued to race and train on the trails sometimes with people and sometimes solo. It’s given me a confidence I never had before and has put me in the path of some amazing people. It also has led me to be a mindset and movement coach for women trail runners. I realized had I had a women mentor/coach earlier in my journey, I would have been in a much better spot much sooner. I’m still grateful for where I came from but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to meet people exactly where they are at and help them get to where they want to be.