A new community project in Asia aims to facilitate female trail runners by supporting each others’ ambitions and giving others the confidence to try the sport for the first time. The group, Asia Trail Girls (ATG), was started recently by 2019 Asia Trail Master (ATM) champion Veronika Vadovicova.

“In Asia, people like to do things together, but I just don’t see many girls doing things together, so this is like a new addition to the way people already think in Asia,” she said.

For now, ATG is a website including stories from runners of all abilities, and advice from more experienced runners on everything from training to running in motherhood.

“By telling stories, not only can we reflect on the experience and what we achieved, but we can inspire other women to do the same.”

Once Asia Trail Girls gains moment, Vadovicova will create events and meetups, even if it’s just casual training. She already has contacts across Asia from her Asia Trail Master season who are interested in becoming ambassadors, building ATG in their countries. In time, it will become a platform for runners to meet.

“If someone wants to do a race but has no one to go with, and they’d like to go and explore, then I have the website or social media as a way to link up girls,” Vadovicova said.

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Though there are a host of talented women in the sport, the problem is wider than that.

“There are women taking part in races, but the percentages are so low, they tend not to go for the long distances. Even in Hong Kong, there are some women in teams but they are not the stars of the team,” Vadovicova said.

“There is not a single woman who is in charge of a team, or a running group. I think it’s something we need. Women should stick together more. So, I thought maybe creating a community that would support women, and encourage our accomplishments and achievements, or even just encourage women to run and to try something new would be nice. It is needed and it doesn’t exist yet in this part of the world.”

Vadovicova burst onto the running scene last season with her ATM win. Last week, Vadovicova and three others – Eszter Csillag, Habiba Benahmed and Nikki Han – entered the ATM 500 Challenge as team Trail Girls on Fire. The task was to run 500km in 14 days. They completed the distance in two days and came second.

But Vadovicova is keen to avoid being the face of ATG because she worries her high performance level may put some women off joining by creating a perception the group is for elites.

“In general, in sports there are always more men than women,” she said. “I think in trail running, the sport takes a lot of time. So some women who already have families and kids cannot imagine balancing them with running. For those who don’t know, maybe they think it is dangerous. Running up and down hills, maybe they lack the confidence.”

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“In Asia, I know a lot of local girls are not raised to do sports. In countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, there might be some cultural barriers to start running, not even trail running. So I think all these reasons are why there are fewer girls.”

The wider trail community has already been very receptive to ATG. Others have offered support and advice and put Vadovicova in contact with people who can help grow the project.

That is not surprising as trail runners across Asia pride themselves on community. When Vadovicova first started trail running, she was not expecting such a welcoming atmosphere.

“I was surprised by how open the community was. It gave me confidence to create a new kind of community and I hope it will be the same, very encouraging and open,” she added.