A post by writer and anthologist June Cotner:
Recently my 34-year-old daughter, Kirsten Casey (above and below), took first place among females in the 100-mile Lumberjack Endurance Run in Port Gamble, Washington, finishing the race in a little over 24 hours.
Though I’m a former runner with a half marathon to my credit, it’s hard for me to imagine starting a race at 8 am on a Saturday and not finishing until a full day later.
As I drifted off into a fitful sleep that Saturday night, I couldn’t help but think my daughter is still running.
Three decades earlier in 1973 I was denied entry to the traditional Five Mile Road Race (known as the “Turkey Day Trot”) in Manchester, Connecticut, because … I was a woman. The reason: “Women would just screw up the mens’ times,” the race director told me.
Prior to moving to Connecticut, I had competed in many road races in California, including the storied 7.45 mile Bay to Breakers (San Francisco) and the grueling 7.4 mile Dipsea Race (from Mill Valley, CA to Stinson Beach).
What seemed like a routine procedure, completing an entry form, turned into a frustrating ordeal. I had called the race director in advance to make sure he would be available because I was driving 1.5 hours round trip to pick up the entry form.
When I arrived he told me that the race was closed to women and he had assumed I had driven that distance to pick up the form for my husband. He informed me that the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU)-sanctioned race had been all male for 37 years.
I immediately got in touch with the media and contacted all high schools and colleges in the greater Hartford area.
I created running bibs, “EQUAL RIGHTS FOR ROAD RUNNERS,” and we had a great turnout!
Prior to the race, the story was carried on television, radio, and the front page of The Hartford Courant. That’s me in the pigtails.
After the race, the story went nationwide via Associated Press.
The following year … women were “legally” allowed to enter!
Who would have thought that something as simple as the desire to run a five-mile race could spark such controversy and end in a decision that would help my daughter to run a 100-mile race thirty years later?
Whether it’s running five miles, 100 miles, or running for political office, we all face obstacles in our lives.
When we take a stand and confront these challenges, we are given the opportunity not only to overcome them, but also to set the path for future generations.