Gina Lucrezi’s first professional role in the running industry was in 2021 when she took a job in customer service with inov-8 and quickly moved up to marketing manager. The company was quite small at the time and therefore she had to learn every aspect of the business – customer service, sales, marketing, events, trade shows, warehouse-pick/pack – in what she now findly recalls as “one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, as it provided me experience in multiple aspects.”
She would later work for Trail Runner magazine as advertising manager, then at iRunFar as business development manager and, finally, an athlete, event and social media manager for Julbo Eyewear USA, Ultimate Direction and Vasque Footwear.
This is her story in founding Trail Sisters and shepherding it into a significant player in the trail running space in 2023.
A passion project … Lucrezi founded Trail Sisters in 2016, while working for Julbo, UD and Vasque, since she was a contractor and able to work remotely. Today, Trail Sisters has grown into a full-time business for her and her husband, Justin, along with a part-time contract employee.
Getting women on the trail … Lucrezi firmly believes it is important to get more women into trail running because it’s something every woman has a right to, yet it isn’t encouraged. “Women enjoy running just as much as men do, but culturally we’ve been told in various ways and forms of expression that it’s not quite our place,” she says, adding that the running industry unfortunately isn’t immune to this thinking. “Ironically though, the running industry should be welcoming every and anyone to the sport, as it’s an obvious key to keeping the industry alive and successful.”
Message to the industry … She explains this importance in two ways. First, welcome and celebrate women because they are just as important, deserving and influential within the sport and outdoors. Second: Do you want to make more money? Then embrace and support a consumer demographic that will likely spend more money on your products. “That may sound blunt, but businesses have bottom lines and investors,” she says.
Unique challenges … The terrain and environment is primitive, Lucrezi acknowledges, which can cause an uneasiness, or fear of the unknown. Education is also lacking and there aren’t a ton of resources specifically for women interested in trail running.
One more challenge … Running partners. It’s much easier to find a fun-run group that runs roads, but it’s a bit trickier to find a women’s-only trail running group.
The Trail Sisters role … Trail Sisters aims to fill the void that the running culture and industry have missed or ignored. The group features a crowd-sourced journal full of helpful information and education — all written by female-identifying people. It has more than 150 volunteer-led Local Trail Sisters Groups (women’s only) across the country that provide safe, welcoming, no-drop trail runs and hikes to community members. It has created free resource courses with help from Hoka and Gnarly Nutrition, free Speaker Series Webinars, women’s-only trail running retreats and races and even a TS Team made up of community members who want to connect with one another at races and events.
Success stories … The fact that Trail Sisters’ presence – in one way or another – has made a large enough impact within the outdoor and running industry to create equitable changes is one of Lucrezi’s success stories. With the help of select individuals from the race space, Trail Sisters created Trail Sisters Approved Standards, which is a list of five simple items race directors can implement at their event to create a more welcoming experience for women runners.
More success … Trail Sisters also hosts a calendar displaying races committed to these standards and is adding more every day.
Personal success … “On a more personal level, I can share stories of how Trail Sisters has helped create new friendships, aided in personal journeys through traumatic events and literally grown women’s participation on the trails and at races,” she says.
The flip side … There will always be obstacles — it’s just the nature of the world, Lucrezi believes. “Although the running industry is on a positive trajectory, things take time and there will always be the need for improvement and progression,” she says, adding that personally her biggest obstacle is finding the time to be able to do more. She feels fortunate to have a great internal team between her husband, Justin, and part-timer Kristi Confortin. Externally, its Local Group Leaders are the champions leading the charge within their local communities.
A typical day … Wake up, drink coffee, take the dogs out, tackle priority business and emails, quick 30 minutes for lunch, take the dogs outside for some play time. And that’s just until noon. After an afternoon of answering additional emails, coordinating needs for retreats, races and other projects, she goes for a run, makes dinner, take the dogs out (again!). By evening she is either preparing trainings for Chaffee County Search and Rescue-North (she is their training director) or reviewing documents and municipal information for the Town of Buena Vista, CO, where she is the Mayor Pro Tem. Head on pillow by 10 p.m.
Her running routine … It is very different than it was five years ago, when she was a professional trail runner putting in multiple hours per week for training and her day revolved around her training schedule. Now, she considers herself more of a recreational runner, content with seven-ish miles every other day or so.
Why trail running? … Lucrezi’s reason for enjoying trail running has changed throughout her life, she explains. “At first, it was the curiosity of a whole new form of exploration. It then became more of an environment to pursue athletic goals and to race at a competitive level.” Now, since her trail running has shifted to more of a causal activity she looks forward to the social atmosphere. “Curiosity still has a hold on me and I like to get out for exploration adventures in the mountains.”
Advice for specialty retailers … The best way to reach out and merchandise to female trail runners is to help educate them in the process, she explains. “Don’t assume your potential customer knows the same technical information about the product as you do, yet don’t dumb it down. Simply share a helpful explanation. Providing someone knowledge that will benefit them for the future is a great way to create trust and reliability.”
Trail Sisters in 2023… The plan for Trail Sisters and Lucrezi is to continue growing the community. Her focus will be to strengthen the opportunities and offerings it already has while launching a free program directed towards first-timers and those interested in learning more about trail running called Be a Beginner. It will go live in late Spring 2023 and will be available in-person at TS Local Groups and also digitally.