When I was a young girl growing up in suburban west Michigan, I distinctly recall some of my fondest memories being endless summer days spent outdoors. From dawn till dusk, each day was spent running and playing tirelessly with my neighborhood friends. Hours of Kick the Can, Capture the Flag, and Kick Ball were played, trees were climbed, hills rolled down, and grass stains earned on the knees of all who traversed the soft grassy yards of my neighborhood. The street I grew up on was home to more boys than girls, and I melded in as the tomboy of the crowd, simply happy to play outdoors and enjoy the fresh summer air with other kids my age who enjoyed to do the same.
As I grew up, my interests changed, and the joy of running free in the wide open spaces became simply a memory. There were boys to chase, malls to cruise, and social groups to befriend. Grass stained knees were traded for awkward heels and thick makeup. I no longer had the desire to be that tomboy, because I thought that for a boy to take notice of me, and for the girls to want to be my friend, I had to fit a specific mold. I needed to be pretty and thin, I needed to laugh at the right jokes and act cool. And as I progressed through my teenage and college years, instead of taking the time to figure out who I was, I did my best to become the girl who I thought everyone would want me to be. Never once did the idea that I could be feminine, I could feel pretty, and I could also hold onto the tomboy in me that truly brought out the happiest part of me.
Thankfully, after years of trying to be someone I wasn’t, I stubbled upon my love of running quite by accident, and this eventually lead me to my love of obstacle racing. And as I fell more deeply in love with living a healthier lifestyle, something in me reignited. For the first time in years, I felt passion, I felt excitement, and I finally felt alive! With each race that I ran, with each pound I lost, and with each milestone I acheived, I realized that I had found my true identity, one that I am not only incredibly proud of, but feel blessed to have discovered.
Today I am honored to feel as though I can consider myself a tomboy. Now don’t get me wrong, I love that I am able to wear makeup, jewelry, and heels, and through that I am able to feel feminine and beautiful, but it’s great to know that this is not all that defines me. I can also wash off the makeup, throw my hair in a ponytail, trade the heels in for a pair of trail shoes, and feel just a beautiful getting muddy, sweaty, and tackling a tough race. Being able to meld into these two roles as a woman also makes me feel incredibly empowered.
I am not an object, I am a force to be reackoned with. I am a strong woman who can acheive great things not just by how I look, but by the things that I can do. I am not a trophy, I seek to earn a trophy. I am a beautiful tomboy.
My hope is that women from all walks of life can feel this way as well. There is no shame in being feminine, but there is no reason you cannot be both feminine and incredibly fierce. With this same idea in mind, Spartan Race recently began their “Beauty and the BeastMode” photo albums, which displays side-by-side photos of women who have submitted a photo of them dressed their best along with their favorite photo being covered head to toe in mud at a Spartan Race. You can see by the genuine smiles of the women in these photos that they have discovered their true ability to live life to the fullest, and to let their beauty shine in every facet of their lives. So many women are discovering the fulfillment of being free to live a healthy, active life while not feeling pressured to give up their girly side. I’m so happy that I did, and I hope that you can as well.
If you have yet to try an obstacle race for fear that it may be too masculine a sport, I urge you to please try one. Grab a group of friends, dress in all pink or wear a tutu if you’d like, then get out there, get muddy, and celebrate the wonderful, amazing things that we, as women, can do! I promise you that it will be a life changing experience!
For all of you who have already joined the Spartan Chicked ranks, you are amazing, I respect you, and keep up the good work! I hope to see you out on the course someday!
~Holly Joy Berkey