Thursday, March 8, 2018

International Women's Day

I am a woman in a sport that, sixty years ago, didn't believe I was capable of running long distances, simply because I was born with two X chromosomes. Women were told that we would grow chest hair, become unsexy, or that our uteruses would fall out if we dared to run more than 200m.

Even though I ran the 800m on my middle school track team, the women's 800m wasn't (re)added to the Olympics until 1960. Even though I entered my first 5K on a whim two years ago, women weren't allowed to run further than 2.5 miles in a road race until after Title IX was established in 1972. Even though I am contesting my first marathon at the end of this year, women didn't have an Olympic marathon to compete in until 1984. The 3000m women's steeplechase wasn't added to the Olympics until 2008*.

While I don't know exactly where I would be, I do know that I wouldn't be competing at the level and distance that I currently am if it weren't for the women who came before me, who persisted and gave their blood, sweat, and tears. 

To borrow from Sir Isaac Newton, "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

I am loving Amby Burfoot's novel First Ladies of Running, which is an incredible collection of stories regarding those giants of running: Bobbi Gibb, who bandited the Boston Marathon in 1966. Kathrine Switzer, who ran with a race number after entering under the name KV Switzer in 1967. Joan Benoit Samuelson, who won the first women's Olympic marathon in 1984.

We still have a ways to go: the #metoo movement has unearthed some awful truths about what it still means today to be a female runner, but I think that might be a conversation for another day.

Today, we celebrate the women who have brought us here, and the women who continue to push the limits of what it means to be female. Today, we celebrate the women who don't back down. Today, we celebrate you.

Go out there. Be brave. Be bold. Don't ever let anyone you can't do it. Your uterus won't fall out. I promise.

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*You won't catch me trying my hand at this one. I took out every hurdle I tried to make my way over at my first ever track practice.

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