Sweaty Betty blog: Olympics
Empowering Women Through Fitness
With only a month to go until the London marathon, and thoughts of the 1000's of women in the depths of their training preparing for race day, I was reminded of an article I once read in runner's world. It documented the quite awe-inspiring (and recent) battle women have had to fight to be considered eligible in the long distance running stakes.
Inspired by the note on her returned race entry form explaining that women were not physically capable of running 26.2 miles, Roberta Gibb made a stand. Wearing only a black bathing suit, Roberta hid in the bushes at the start line of the 1972 Boston marathon (the most famous marathon other than the Olympics) so she could, in the very least, start the race she had intended to finish.
The following year, revolt – this time in the form of Katherine Switzer, made an appearance at the marathon. By entering using only her initials and avoiding a pre-race medical by sending her coach to vouch for her with a medical certificate, K Switzer received her number and status as an official race member. A mere four miles in, when local press recognised a women’s presence in this ‘man’s’ domain, race officials charged after Katherine to remove her from the race.
Inching forward, later in 1972, the American athletic authorities ruled that whilst women could in fact manage long distance running and participate in a marathon, they would have to start 10 minutes before the men, efectively in a separate race. That year the six female entrants heroically lay down as the ‘women’s’ gun sounded, awaiting the start of the ‘male’ race where they rose and ran alongside the men.
The defining moment(s)…
Victory, otherwise known as Grete Waitz, who was known for her perfomance ability at middle distances made it to New York to tackle new ground, 26.2 miles of it, in 1978. After having only ever run 13 miles, Grete’s victory that followed was even more prolific; winning her first ever marathon with a new world record of 2.32.30. Not only did Grete change the way women were seen and associated with long distance running, she also went on to beat her personal best, and world records for the next two years.
In 1981, after many inspirational and courageous acts, and a persistance that can only be revered, the women’s marathon was made an official Olympic event.read more
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