In Her Nature


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When Rachel loses five family members in five months, grief magnifies other absences. Long-distance running used to help her feel at home in her body and the world, but now she becomes painfully aware of her inability to run without being cat-called or followed by strange men, or to walk alone at night without fear. Her eyes are opened to injustices facing women in sport, from men who push her off paths during races, to male bias in competition regulations, kit and media coverage. The outdoors becomes a place of danger, and her personal sadness is a version of the grief that all women experience, globally, for lack of freedom and safety. Rachel turns back to running and goes in search of a new family: the foremothers who blazed a trail – running, hiking, climbing and mountaineering – in the earliest decades of outdoor sport. She discovers a startling hidden history, not just of forgotten female achievements, but of male backlash. She unearths a devastating period in which women were comprehensively driven out of sport and public space – and she looks afresh at the present moment, to ask right now, are we living through a period of unprecedented female empowerment, or an era of reversal in women’s rights? As she runs her way from bereavement to belonging, she is inspired by the tenacious women, past and present, who resist attempts to be driven indoors, and insist that being active outdoors is, most definitely, in women’s nature.]]>