Few brands are as lucky as we are to have such a brilliant group of female athletes who continue to inspire us every day with their incredible achievements.
While we champion them throughout the year, we’d like to use International Women’s Day on March 8th, to raise the profile of these phenomenal women up a little bit more.
ZUZANA KOCUMOVA – CZECH REPUBLIC
inov-8 ambassador and Czech national Zuzana Kocumova is one of the world’s most modest, talented and balanced obstacle course racers. She has no fewer than two Spartan World Championship titles to her name, a Spartan Trifecta World Championship, an OCR World Championship win and numerous other European titles. Described on the Spartan website as the “best female Spartan racer in the world”, Zuzana is one seriously tough competitor.
It is hard to imagine an athlete of her accomplishment fell into OCR by chance, initially declining a place in her first event as she “didn’t like mud”. Zuzana, who went on to win the event, approaches her achievements with maturity that belies her age. For the 39-year-old, winning isn’t everything, what is important is enjoying what you.
Zuzana has an impressive history of sporting achievements, having joined the Czech National Nordic (cross-country) Ski Team at the age of 17 and competing internationally at the top level until retiring in 2001. With her experience, comes wisdom – she is a firm believer in the importance of a healthy lifestyle and a strong advocate of a balanced approach. She believes in training smarter, not harder, and listening to your body. In a culture where we are often told to push harder, ignore the pain and grit it out, here is an athlete who isn’t afraid to defy the norm, listen to her body, train only when she wants and still dominate out on the course!
ZUZANA’S FAVOURITE KIT: X-TALON 212 a super-lightweight, fast-draining shoe with aggressive rubber studs that grip in mud and over wet, slippery obstacles.
DANI SPEEGLE – USA
This influential crossfitter from Melbourne, Florida has had a meteoric rise since she first stepped foot in a box. From a relatively unknown athlete in 2018, she has entered the 2019 Open with more media hype and competitive momentum than most of her rivals, and with good cause. Dani has to be one of the most dedicated, athletically talented and inspirational athletes that has burst onto the CrossFit scene lately. She excelled at the recent Strength in Depth competition in the UK, placing 3rd overall and has notched up top-5 finishes in both Dubai and at Wodapalooza.
It is not only her achievements, but her approach to the sport and competition that we find inspiring. Despite her new found fame, Dani keeps a level head when it comes to competing, admitting to still getting butterflies before each competition. Asked what advice she’d give aspiring crossfitters, she says it is to smile and enjoy the journey. “One day you’ll look back and you won’t believe where you started and it’ll happen in the blink of an eye. Capture each training day and be proud of each step you take towards your goal – it’ll make the end goal so much sweeter,” she says. Dani believes it is important to remember that you love what you are doing and whatever the outcome of the workout is, that you are doing it for YOU!
We are looking forward to seeing where the future takes this incredible athlete.
DANI’S FAVOURITE KIT: Her pair of F-LITE G 290 training shoes with Graphene-Grip
ABELONE LYNG – NORWAY
inov-8 ambassador Abelone Lyng is an ultra-runner hailing from Scandinavia, who recently placed first woman at the gruelling 230km Ice Ultra across the Arctic wilderness. The 230km multi-day stage race ,which starts and finishes in the north of Sweden, sees competitors racing across snow and ice whilst being exposed to temperatures as low as -35C.
What makes this achievement even more remarkable is the fact that this young mum-of-two only started running in 2016. Abelone balances her training with working full-time as a staff nurse and looking after her young family. She admitted doing research on the race that had left her excited but scared. “What if anything went wrong? If it’s -35C you don’t have much time before you turn into ice,” she said. Never one to turn down a challenge, this inspiring ultra-runner started to prepare and train for the race, thinking she would only be ready to do it in 2020. Not only was she ready in 2019, but she exceeded all expectations, placing 1st lady and 4th overall.
Abelone speaks about the event as the hardest week of running she’s ever had. “By the end of day 3, I was hurting and found it especially hard knowing we had over 60km to run the following day. But the scenery and the love of running made me push through. I couldn’t DNF, even if I had to walk,” she added.
ABELONE’S FAVOURITE KIT: STORMSHELL WATERPROOF JACKET which keeps her dry and protected while training throughout the year in Norway.
AMY RUSIECKI – USA
inov-8 ambassador Amy Rusiecki is an elite ultra runner and race director hailing from the northeastern USA. Amy, who has been running her entire life, started out with orienteering when she was only six years old before moving onto cross country running and then transitioning to road racing (during which time she escaped to the trails to train).
Once she learned that others trained AND raced on the trails, she says she found her community – and we think they were lucky to find her too! Amy has represented the USA three-times, having completed over 82 ultra marathons, winning over 33 of them. If anyone knows trail and ultra running, it is Amy. Not only an accomplished runner herself, she is married to another successful ultra runner (Brian Rusiecki) and she is the race director of the prestigious Vermont 100 Endurance Race and Seven Sisters Trail Race.
It isn’t just her athletic accomplishments that grab our attention, but Amy’s drive and strength too. In her experience as an ultra runner Amy has learnt to push through numerous hardships to achieve success, and being a race director is no easy task either.
Amy has been faced with a lot of negativity alongside the constant challenge of trying to be taken seriously as a female in a leadership position. Her strength and perseverance, and her passion to share ultra running with the wider community whilst letting nothing stand in her way, is a lesson to us all. In a sporting world largely dominated by men, the world needs more women like Amy, and we are proud to have this phenomenal woman flying the inov-8 flag for us in the States!
AMY’S FAVOURITE KIT: ROCLITE 275 – a versatile trail running shoe which she says works perfectly on the rugged terrain she encounters in the northeastern US
JASMIN PARIS – UK
The ultra running mum made headlines around the world in January 2019 when she became the first-ever woman to win the 268-mile Spine Race outright, while setting a new overall course record. And, as if 268 miles down the mountainous backbone of England in the dead of winter isn’t tough enough, she did it in just 83hrs 12mins, completely obliterating the previous best time (set by male runner Eoin Keith) by more than 12 hours.
Jasmin, who was still breastfeeding at the time of the race and expressed milk at checkpoints, caught the attention of the international press with her phenomenal achievement, becoming the first inov-8 ambassador (and perhaps first ever ultra-runner) to be interviewed by Vogue! We certainly never expected to see our PROTEC-SHELL waterproof jacket gracing the webpages of Vogue!
35-year-old Jasmin, who gave birth to her daughter just 14 months before the race is not a professional, full-time athlete, but instead a down-to-earth, modest mum-of-one with an incredible talent and phenomenal strength, both physically and mentally.
Jasmin juggles ultra-running with caring for her young family, working as a small animal vet and currently completing a thesis. How she does it all is beyond us… and this race win was no fluke! Jasmin is no stranger to the podium, to name just a few, she has won the British Fell Running Championships twice, the 2016 Skyrunner World Series (Extreme series), she holds the record for the fastest women’s time on the Bob Graham Round and she holds the fastest overall time on the Ramsay Round in Scotland (yep, she took another men’s record. Sorry boys!) This incredible athlete is paving a new way forward for women in the sport.
JASMIN’S FAVOURITE KIT: 2.5″ RACER SHORT, a lightweight short made from soft stretchy fabric, designed for racing
NICKY SPINKS – UK
inov-8 ambassador and ultra-runner Nicky Spinks is in a league of her own. The inspirational cancer survivor who is now in her early 50s, is showing no signs of slowing down, having recently become the first person ever to complete a 116-mile Double Ramsay Round in the Scottish mountains. Yes, it really is as tough as it sounds! Nicky climbed 48 peaks, including the UK’s highest mountain Ben Nevis, with an accumulative ascent of almost twice the height of Mount Everest (57,00ft) on the run which she did non-stop, taking 55 hours and 56 minutes.
Nicky, who is a farmer based in Yorkshire, also holds the record for the 132-mile Double Bob Graham Round – 84 Lake District peaks and an ascent of over 54,000ft, which she did in a time of 45 hours AND 30 minutes to mark 10 years post-diagnosis. Watch the video here. Nicky has won numerous events, and holds various records. She held the womens’ records for all three of the UK’s 24-hour rounds (Bob Graham, Ramsay Round and Paddy Buckley) until 2016 when fellow inov-8 ambassador Jasmin Paris broke them.
While Nicky’s athletic accomplishments are enough to inspire even the most hardy, her outlook on life is what we really admire. When asked why she sets herself such challenges she replies with “We have only been gifted with one life and I want to make the most of mine. I also want to help people make the most of theirs”. Nicky devotes her free time to helping coach runners and juniors, and to raise money for Odyssey in order to help people get back on their way after having cancer. You can help support her via her JustGiving page.
Nicky’s strength, determination and grit are an inspiration to us all. She seems to get stronger and better with age and we can’t wait to see what challenge this runner takes on next.
NICKY’S FAVOURITE KIT: MUDCLAW G 260 with Graphene-Grip, aggressive grip that is perfect for the soft mud and wet rock she encounters on the fells.
VICTORIA WILKINSON – UK
inov-8 ambassador Victoria Wilkinson is a mountain and fell running champion who continues to inspire with her unwavering drive and determination. She proves that no matter what the setback, you can come back even stronger.
Victoria’s first big achievement in an international vest was at the age of 19, when she won the junior race at the 1997 World Mountain Running Championship, held in the Czech Republic. Victoria has gone on to represent England and Great Britain in numerous European Mountain Running Championships and World Mountain Running Championships since.
A knee injury interrupted her running career, but rather than be defeated, in true ‘Victoria’ spirit, she simply turned her focus to cyclo-cross, winning the national cyclo-cross series and competing with success on the international stage for years to come.
She returned to running in 2006 and has gone on to achieve countless race wins, international honours and broken lots of records along the way.
In 2018, at the age of 40 (so officially a ‘veteran’ in fell running) she had the most incredible season – breaking many long-standing women’s course records at fell and mountain running races across the UK, including the Ben Nevis record which had stood since Pauline Haworth set it in 1984. (watch iRunFar video interview).
This inspirational athlete has proven time and again that you can overcome obstacles and bounce-back stronger than ever before.
VICTORIA’S FAVOURITE KIT: ALL TERRAIN GLOVE, a lightweight glove designed for racing on cold days. The silicone pattern on the palms gives Victoria good grip on the rock.