Most of us are at least vaguely familiar with the 1972 law known as Title IX, the law that made it illegal to discriminate against women in athletic programs that receive federal funding. But I’m not sure that most of us really understand what it was like to be a woman before 1972. And this is not ancient history.
In 2006, women represented 40 percent of the finishers in marathons across the country and 55 percent of half marathon finishers, according to Running USA’s annual State of the Sport study. Runners’ World reports that there were 12.9 million women runners in the U.S. in 2005. 12.9 million!
Now check this out: In 1967, the race director of the Boston Marathon tried to physically remove a registered woman runner from the race. “Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers!” the race director screamed at Kathrine Switzer. In 2007, forty years later, over 12,000 women finished that same event. Kathrine Switzer is now a well-known celebrity in the running industry. In fact, she was an NBC commentator for the NYC Marathon this year. She’s only sixty years old!
Now, many in the industry credit women for U.S. running’s “Second Boom.” There were 12.9 million of us out there pounding the pavement last year. Hundreds of thousands of women completed a marathon in 2006, and even more completed a half marathon race. I don’t know about you, but it’s hard for me to imagine a time when people thought we couldn’t do it. But it wasn’t that long ago.
It’s fair to say that we have entered a new era in women’s running.
Now Nike, New Balance, ASICS, and other big running shoe companies invest millions in developing and marketing running shoes and apparel specific to women. Pioneering small business owners launch product lines with innovative technologies for women—or just for the style of it! Technical and flattering running skirts are gaining in popularity. One of the largest marathon races in the country is the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco. ZOOMA Women’s Race Series, the first national series of women’s half marathon and 10K races, recently launched and opened registration for its first event outside Washington, DC in June 2008.
Not only are women a force to be reckoned with in the running industry, we are taking it a step further. We sweat and train hard, and we like to wear running clothes that look and feel good! We want professionally-managed races, but we like to celebrate and pamper ourselves!
ZOOMA has taken the women work hard/women play hard concept to the extreme. ZOOMA Women’s Race Series, with its first half marathon and 10K in Annapolis in June 2008, captures a “girls’ weekend” atmosphere on its race weekends with an after party including wine tasting, mini spa treatments, shopping, live music, samplings, and give-aways. All participants receive free online training programs and access to a group-training network. Race weekend events include a separate jog stroller race. You can even have your race packet mailed to you. Now that’s a women’s race.
In the 1960s, Kathrine Switzer ran marathons fast wearing a hair ribbon and red lipstick. She is a woman and a runner. So, go ahead and run like a girl. And have fun doing it.
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