Lululemon will launch a six-day ultramarathon next year–a step into new territory for the athleticwear brand that it says is aimed at promoting and better understanding the potential of women in endurance sports.
The company says the Further six-day ultra will kick off on March 8—International Women’s Day—on a certified looped course at a location to be announced. Ten athletes are slated to compete in the event: Camille Herron, Devon Yanko, Kayla Jeter, Leah Yingling, Mirna Valerio, Montana Farrah-Seaton, Stefanie Flippin, Vriko Kwok, Xiaomeng Jia and Yoon Young Kang.
“Women are continuing to redefine what’s possible,” says Herron, the American ultrarunner who set the 48-hour women’s world record in Canberra, Australia in March by running 435.336km. “It’s important we have the platform and opportunities to showcase what we’re capable of. Further represents this to me. I’m honored to join this phenomenal group of athletes, elevate women’s running and celebrate our human potential.”
The multi-day event will give the runners the chance to run the furthest distance of their careers with the opportunity to set world records, says the company.
Lululemon says it will be partnering with Canadian Sport Institute Pacific to conduct research studies on athletes during training and the ultramarathon itself to better understand female endurance performance and human endurance performance in general. Each athlete will have access to sport science and medicine support to inform personalized training programs spanning physical, mental and emotional support. Findings from the research are expected to be published at the beginning of March.
“Women are continuously setting new ultramarathon records, with the difference between male and female performance appearing to get smaller the further humans run,” says Trent Stellingwerf, senior adviser of innovation and research at Canadian Sport Institute Pacific. “However, there is limited research in this space, which creates a biased understanding of human endurance as women are heavily under-represented in sports science.”
Lululemon cites an audit of select sports science and sports medicine journals that found only four to 13 per cent of published studies were female-only. The new research is intended to address the “limited knowledge around female athletes while bringing awareness to the need for additional research,” says the company.
“Women are historically underserved when it comes to opportunities to compete, research devoted to the pursuit of their goals, and product innovations built with them in mind, yet they continue to push the boundaries of human possibility in sport regardless of the inequities they face, ” says Nikki Neuburger, Lululemon’s chief brand officer. “Further is grounded in our purpose at lululemon to unlock greater possibility and well being for all, and we see it as an opportunity to better serve women, solving for their specific unmet needs. With Further, we aim to inspire belief in what is possible for women when they’re supported with resources typically reserved for men.
Canadian multi-day ultramarathoning pioneer Trishul Cherns tells canadian running that while organizing a multi-day race may seem to some as unusual territory for Lululemon, he sees many positives in the Further project.
“From my perspective, it puts the spotlight on something close to my heart, multi-day running. The goal of the Global Organization of Multi-Day Ultramarathoners (GOMU) is to make multi-day running mainstream,” says Cherns, who adds the Further project “puts a spotlight on women in multi-day running. Ultramarathons are not just 100 mile trail runs; they are diverse–10-day, 1,000-mile, 3,100-mile races on tracks on roads—just like the group of women that make up this project.”
He applauds Lululemon’s effort to invest more resources and attention to women’s sports. “Their focus is on data capture to further sports science and research on women’s endurance. brave!” says Cherns. “It’s very true that women are sorely under-represented in the research data and the science of female performance is marginalized or non-existent … Only recently has the discussion of women’s menstrual cycles on sports performance even been openly talked about by women athletes, let alone the subject of serious study.”
Along with its announcement of the Further multi-day ultramarathon, Lululemon unveiled the Blissfeel Trail, the company’s first road-to-trail running shoe. The company says the insights it gains from the Further project will help the company expand on products designed to support women as they go further on their runs.