The history of women’s running is relatively new. In looking back, most official milestones in women’s running have been recognized only in the past 100 years. In fact, it wasn’t until 1926 when Violet Piercy from London became the first woman to run a marathon and be recognized by an official international governing body for athletics for doing so. Within a short period of time, women have made leaps and bounds in running accomplishments. From the creation of new records, the shattering of those records, and the continual raising of the bar, the perspective of what women can do is continually being challenged.
While there are so many motivational running stories to share, here is a “high five” of women in long distance running history who currently reside/resided in North America. These women pushed the limits of what is possible both past and present. Their stories are not only uplifting, but a testament to the many awe-inspiring achievements that span a variety of different experiences.
Michiko “Miki” Gorman
Gorman initially got into running because she was embarrassed of her body. Through running, she found confidence and embraced that her stature was not what was holding her back. In 1976 and again in 1977, at the age of 41, Gorman, was the first woman to win the New York Marathon two years in a row. She also won the Boston Marathon in 1974 and again in 1977. She is one of only two women to win both marathons in the same year. Gorman is a testament that one is never too old to start running, that there is no stereotypical runner’s body or background, and that the sky is the limit in what one can achieve with some confidence.
Bevans is a long distance runner who holds many “first” titles. She is a trailblazer holding the title of the first African American woman to win a marathon (Washington’s Birthday Marathon 1975), to run a sub-three hour marathon, and receive a medal at the Boston Marathon in 1977 where she came in second. She also won the Baltimore marathon in 1977 and 1979. Bevan’s legacy is an important one showcasing the importance of diversity and Black representation in long distance running. She has spent much of her career as a coach and inspiring others.
Jami Goldman Marseilles
At the age of 19, Marseille became a bilateral below-knee amputee after being trapped in a snowstorm for 11 days after a ski trip. After watching the Paralympic games in 1996, she decided to become a Paralympic runner herself. Marseille has run both short and long distances. She is the first female bilateral below knee amputee to complete a marathon and has run both the Boston and Chicago marathons. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016 and continuing the fight, she continues to show resilience and perseverance. She continues not only to be an inspiration to many but also a symbol of strength.
María Lorena Ramírez
Ramírez is a Tarahumara indigenous woman or a Rarámuri (which translates to “foot-runner” or “those who run fast”) woman . In 2017, at the age of 22, she ran the Ultra Trail Cerro Rojo ultramarathon. Not only did she run the race in sandals and a traditional dress, but she won the women’s 50K race with a time of 7 hours and 3 minutes and no special gear. While it is evident that she has natural running ability, she is a great reminder that running doesn’t need to be complicated with running tech and that all that is needed is the heart and will to run and enjoy the run. There is also a Netflix documentary on her.
Hailing from Alaska, Youngren, who ran her first marathon in 2017, became the first openly transgender athlete to compete at the US Olympic marathon trials in February 2020. While she did not qualify for the Olympics, she trained hard and finished with an inspirational 2:50:27. Youngren is another important example of inclusion in running an also an important individual setting the stage to defy the stereotypes and categorizations that are often entrenched in the running world.
There are so many amazing stories of not just professional runners but amateur ones and all those in between. Here are some of the ROT6 journal contributor’s favourite lesser known women runners:
What women are capable of continues to be challenged and defied by the women such as the ones showcased above. Current statistics have shown that there are more women running than men with many more women entering into longer distance races. Female individuals continue to push the envelope and boundaries of what they are capable of. Who knows what feats will be accomplished in the next 100 years!
Who are some of your favourite women in running? Leave us a comment sharing their story!