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OKC Memorial Marathon: Let's Hear It for the Girls


When you’re running five or six miles — or eight or 10 — you have a lot of time to think.

Or at least I do. I’m slow.

So, the totally random thoughts that I have are many. Why do my legs feel so dead? Why can’t Pandora figure out that I want upbeat music? Sure hope that car sees me. What am I going to eat when I get home? I’ve only run how far?

But here’s one thing that I’ve never thought about: women like me running distance races.

I mean, there are women’s running groups like RunHers. There are tons of women who show up every time the Oklahoma City Land Runners have a training run. One of our local runners, Camille Herron, even set a national 100K record recently.

That’s 62 miles, by the way.

(Yes, I admit I’m crazy, but running 13.1 miles at the half marathon at Sunday’s Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon doesn’t seem quite as nutso in light of that.)

But then, I saw a story shared by one of my friends on Facebook. It appeared in the Boston Globe and on Boston.com in the days leading up to Monday’s Boston Marathon. It recounted the story and the impact of Kathrine Switzer. I encourage you to read it by clicking here, but here’s the abbreviated version:

In 1967, Switzer was a journalism student at Syracuse, and she registered for the Boston Marathon under the name she often used, K.V. She paid her money. She got her bib. She showed up on race day, and off she went.

But then after only a few miles, one of the race’s top officials tracked her down.

Literally.

He jumped off a race vehicle and ran after her. He was ranting. He was raving. And he tried to rip her bib off her shirt.

Why?

Women weren’t allowed in the race.

Today, it seems so absolutely crazy that it’s laughable. According to people to compile data about such things, women make up more than half the entrants in 5Ks, 10Ks and half marathons in the United States. In marathons, men still outnumber women, but women make up more than 40 percent of marathoners.

To think that less than 50 years ago, women weren’t allowed to run those longer distances in most high-profile races.

Switzer said something very profound in that Boston Globe story about what it has meant for women to have the chance to run: “It's changing whole societies. It's changing the way the world perceives women's capabilities. It’s changing the way that women believe in themselves. They understand now from the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other that they can change their lives."

Believing in yourself one step at a time.

That’s what thousands of us intend to do Sunday morning — and women who’ve come before us, women like Kathrine Switzer, have given us that chance.

Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›

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