We’ve come a long way, baby!

It’s Women’s History month — what better time to take a little stroll through the long and winding road of women’s running. I think women have been running through the ages, in one way or another, but it’s humbling to remember that not so long ago running and women were rarely heard in the same sentence.

I have to admit I was pretty much blissfully unaware of most these events, or at the very least not really impacted emotionally by them: because I didn’t grow up running. I wasn’t athletic, I certainly wasn’t interested in running, and it definitely wasn’t encouraged — except, ironically, in gym class.

1954: First women runs a sub-5 minute mile
Diane Leather ran 4:59.6 on May 29, just 23 days after Roger Bannister ran his 3:59.4 mile.

1962: Women are allowed to run the 800 meters again
That is the year I was born! Women had been able to run that “long” previously: 32 years ago, in 1928, ironically the year my mother was born. Women were deemed too frail to run that distance after that first Olympic race.

1967: First woman to officially run the Boston Marathon
Pretty sure that everyone reading this blog knows that that was Katherine Switzer, and that the officials allowed her to register because she used initials — they thought she was a man. Woman had run Boston before Switzer, but they were bandits, often hanging out in bushes near the start so no one would see them and tell them they couldn’t race.

1975: Title IX Goes into effect
Although actually becoming a law in 1972, it wasn’t until 1975 that Title IX began to seep into sports. Title IX discouraged unequal federal financial aid and university support for men’s vs women’s programs.

1984: Joan Benoit Samuelson wins the first women’s Olympic Marathon
Isn’t it mind boggling that women were not allowed to run the marathon in the Olympics until I graduated from college? It is to me, anyway! Officials seriously thought women’s uteruses could fall out if they ran a marathon.

Skirt Sports lets me carry what I need with me

2004: Nicole DeBoom founds Skirt Sports
You know I had to go there, right? Nicole, who last year gave the reins of Skirt Sports (click here) over to Sarah Ratzlaff, knew the power of competing, looking cute while competing — and pockets. I am forever grateful that she had that vision and saw it through. I still can be found in Skirt Sports many days.

Do you have a favorite memory of running from long ago? 

Who would you add to this list? There are so many more, but I wanted to keep this short!

Do you consider the creation of the Jogbra to be key to women’s running? As a small chested woman — not the mention the fact I didn’t run when it was invented — it didn’t impact me that greatly. What about you?


Linking up with Zenaida Arroyo and Kim @ Kookyrunner

This week I am also joining up with the new Runners’ Roundup linkup.


42 thoughts on “We’ve come a long way, baby!

  1. What a good idea for a post – especially with yesterday being International Women’s Day!
    And it looks like I had an educational gap too – I didn’t know about Title IX.

    I was lucky to have a female teacher who encouraged running. When I was 13-15 (in the early 80s), I was running a lot on the track thanks to her.

    Good question about the jog bra. I ran before I even knew that existed. I just used a regular bra. Being small-chested too, it didn’t make much of a difference to me. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m older that you. I remember the JFK mandated physical fitness tests. And those outdoor field days. At the time (in elementary school & middle school) I was very skinny and loved running FAST.

    In high school, only the boys got to play organized sports. The girls could be cheerleaders. I tried out of course like everyone else. I was and still am uncoordinated…didn’t come close to making it.

    It took me until age 55 to decide to run a mile lol.

    One of my fondest running memories will always be chatting with and running along side Joan Benoit when she came to Albany years ago (maybe 2012?)

    I didn’t know there were different bras. I think I wore a regular bra playing tennis and when I first started running. I still do sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This was such a great post Judy! I definitely learned a lot about moments in women’s running. It still baffles me that people thought women couldn’t run long distances and that it would be too much for our bodies. Did these people miss forget that women were the same people that birthed children?! I feel like if you can do that, you can run long distance!

    We’ve gone a long way, that’s for sure!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I love this! Title IX was the big one when I was growing up. I’ve told my daughter how girls couldn’t run in marathons and it was thought that running would do all kinds of crazy things to women, like their uterus would fall out. She’s absolutely floored by things like that (thank goodness it’s a different world now, for the better).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. When I was in high school, girls were not allowed to run cross country – just boys. When I told that to my students, they couldn’t believe that. The longest distance in our track meet was 880 yards. Yes, distances were in yards rather than meters when I was in school. I was a sprinter in high school. I ran the 100-yard dash and 440 relay.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. It’s hard to believe that they actually thought a woman’s uterus would fall out if they ran a marathon! That just blows my mind. I was never interested in running growing up, so these things weren’t on my radar either. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Young women take their sports participation for granted–you and I grew up in the Title IX era and saw women’s sports expand. Now it seems as if the sky’s the limit! In ultradistance races, women rule!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was happy as a kid not to have to do sports. 😊 I hated to run, I’d go way out in the outfield & pray a ball never came my way! I still probably wouldn’t be interested in team spirts. Always the last picked . . .


  8. That’s a really lovely list of incredible accomplishments by some truly groundbreaking women in the sport. I love to see it.

    I’m not huge up top, but a sports bra is vital to my workouts. I lost a lot of weight in my early 20s and it did me zero favors in that region.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. My freshman year of high school, I was a “Soccerette”. There was not yet a girls soccer team. Soccerettes had the honor of standing on the sidelines of boy’s soccer games and holding up a flag if the ball went out of bounds. Oh and we had to go chase it too. I’m nauseous just thinking about that.
    I did have one of the early sports bras. It was beige cotton and pretty much just flattened everything in place.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. i love this post. Yes, we have come a long way! I have a very, very vivid memory of watching Joan Benoit win that Olympic gold medal in 1984. i had just graduated from high school, and had started running a year earlier. It really shaped my attitude and goals toward running for a long time.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. So many interesting things. I mean, I knew about most of them but having it all together there made it even better. It is mind blowing how they thought a woman’s uterus would fall out. I mean, how and why would they think that? Idiots.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I love running (and hanging around) in Skirt Sports too! I think I bought my first Skirt not too long after Nicole started the company. And I still have it! A black, very short, marathon triks skirt, with panties instead of shorties. Skirt Sports has come a long way!

    I actually did know most of these things, aside from the first sub-5 minute mile and when they allowed women to run the 800m. And my mom was born in 1928 too!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I grew up in the post-Title IX area and attended an all-girls high school with robust sports programs. I took it for granted until I learned about how long it took women to get to race more than the 800m! Especially now that women dominate the ultra running world, that notion of limiting distance is absolutely crazy to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. It’s frustrating to realize how much women have historically been underestimated! Thank you for sharing some women’s running history!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Great post Judy! I definitely appreciated growing up in the post-Title IX era – my school had a pretty robust sports program for girls and I took full advantage (soccer, basketball, and track!) While I was not a distance runner in ’84, I do remember watching Joan Benoit win the gold.

    Liked by 1 person

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