I don’t think I have really thought of a time when women weren’t allowed to run long distances. Sure, I knew that women weren’t allowed into the Boston Marathon, but I didn’t realize that there actually weren’t any sanctioned races for women longer than a 1.5 miles race. Apparently, it wasn’t feminine and your uterus might fall out.
Today, we think of this as laughable, but there were women and girls that paved the way for us as women to not have to experience the discrimination that they faced at the time. Imagine Maureen Wilton at 13 running the first recognized marathon only to be asked if she ran the whole race, or being told you couldn’t run a race just because you were a girl. This has a big effect on the psyche. It can either cause you to quite racing, or make you more determined to continue to race. In Maureen’s (Mighty Moe) case, she stopped running when her run community changed and she no longer found a conducive and positive environment.
She came back to running 40 years later only to see how the running environment changed thanks to her early efforts.
Unfortunately, the run community still faces examples of discrimination. We see and hear of episodes where plus size women are taunted and questioned if they ran the whole race. We see examples of some races not being as welcoming to diversity. I’m happy to see that this appears to be changing, and that there are active campaigns for inclusion for all in the sport. I’m the type of person who will try to recruit anyone not already running into running… I’ll try to recruit you into any sport quite frankly. If you want learn more about Maureen Wilton’s story check out Mighty Moe: The True Story of a Thirteen-Year-Old Women’s Running Revolutionary by Rachel Swaby.