National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) recognizes the influence of sports involvement for girls and women, applauds the achievements of female athletes, and honors the ongoing journey for equality in women’s sports. Held annually on the first Wednesday in February, NGWSD encourages female athletes and advocates to come together in their communities and celebrate the triumphs in their sports while fostering empowerment for future generations of women and girls.
Team Injinji Athlete Caroline Himbert, (@im_earthcake), is a Utah-based ultra and trail runner who has found involvement in Girl and Her Backpack, a non-profit aiming to make outdoor sports more accessible for young girls, and Women of the Wasatch (WOW), a Salt Lake City-based women’s trail running group.
Please share a bit about yourself.
I am a female ultra runner and thru-hiker. My passion for long distances started in 2016 when I completed the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) solo. After thru-hiking the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) in 2019, I decided to give my first 50k a try! Looking back at my training, my nutrition back then was terrible, but you live, and you learn! And I strongly believe that you learn something during every race!
Can you share a bit about the organizations you are involved with, and how you got involved?
Girl and Her Backpack is a nonprofit organization for girls of all backgrounds that promotes personal development through a collaborative and experiential learning environment. The goal is to make the outdoors more accessible and inclusive for girls, specifically BIPOC girls and girls of non-traditional backgrounds. One of my friends already volunteered with Girl and Her Backpack and I was immediately excited to volunteer for the organization. I know how hard it can be as a teenage girl to find your passions in life and figure out who you are and who you want to be. The outdoors has given me so much in life and has shaped my personality over the years, and I am excited to give girls the opportunity to experience the same.
Women of the Wasatch’s (WOW) mission is to encourage all women to take to the trails and make trail running more accessible. I was looking for a local running club and WOW had just started to build. I was excited to be surrounded by other badass trail running women and to improve my trail running!
What does being a part of these communities mean to you?
Being part of both communities allows me to be surrounded and be inspired by other female athletes and at the same time, inspire aspiring female outdoor enthusiasts and support them to feel empowered through the outdoors.
How have these clubs fostered an environment of inclusivity and support among its members?
From the beginning, both clubs have actively fostered an environment of inclusivity and supported a safe space for girls and women in the outdoors. Both clubs have methods in place to reach a broad audience aiming to reach females from diverse backgrounds and within various levels of outdoor activities.
WOW welcomes women at any level of road and trail running. “Party pacers” are assigned for each group run to leave no one behind, and to ensure everyone feels included and encouraged to complete the run. There are special events where female runners are invited to speak and answer questions about running-related topics including being female athletes and their challenges, diet, safety in the outdoors, and much more.
Similarly, Girl and Her Backpack always has multiple hiking leaders and adult females who join each hike or camp with the girls to promote inclusiveness and safety. We have regular educational workshops on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) to learn and improve even further.
Have you encountered any challenges as a female athlete?
Especially during thru-hikes as a solo female, I was often told I could not do it. I could not get through the next section with this much snow still in it or I could not hike 40-50 miles in a day. If I would have listened, I would not have accomplished crossing the border to Canada. I had already come so far through the snow, through similar conditions, and I had already hiked 40+ miles back-to-back. Why can I not do it now, as a woman, just because someone tells me I can’t?
Can you share a memorable experience or achievement that stands out to you in your athletic career?
This past summer, I ran the Kodiak 100M by UTMB with the goal of leaving it all out there and finishing close to 24 hours. Surrounded by a strong female field, I did not have expectations for direct qualification for UTMB finals in Chamonix. At the 3rd to last aid station, the volunteers yelled after me, “You are third by the way!!” I yelled back “Are you f****** kidding me??” I couldn’t believe it! With this huge motivational boost, I dug deep—deep in the pain cave—and finished third female. I was only 20 minutes behind second place but 2 hours ahead of fourth place, covering 102 miles in 24 hours and 11 minutes, earning a direct qualification for the finals in France!
As a non-sponsored female athlete with a regular job aside from training, I was beyond thrilled. I am excited to see my family (I am originally from Germany) and my parents will come out to meet up in France this summer!
What advice would you give to young girls or women aspiring to pursue sports?
Many paths can lead to a destination or goal that you are working toward. If one path does not work out, don’t give up; try another way. Also, it is ok to be scared in the woods alone or of big objectives. Being scared makes us stronger and leads to learning new limits.
Feeling inspired? Check out the local clubs in your area, grab a pair of Injinji socks, and hit the trails!