Women and Running: From Turkey Day Trots to 100-Mile Runs

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Kirsten Casey headshot-post 100-mile run

 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.

Kirsten Casey finishing 100-mile run

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.

Woman Left Behind clip

I created running bibs, “EQUAL RIGHTS FOR ROAD RUNNERS,” and we had a great turnout!

Equal Rights for Road Runners SIGN

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.

Equal rights newspaper article

After the race, the story went nationwide via Associated Press.

Associated Press clip

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.

june-cotner

June Cotner is the author of more than two dozen books. SOAR! Follow Your Dreams was published in March by Andrews McMeel Publishing and Garden Blessings was published in May by Viva Editions.

Follow June on Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter. Check out her website at   www.JuneCotner.com and her author page on Amazon.com.

17 responses »

  1. That’s crazy that you weren’t allowed to enter! We have an all-women’s race here in Charlottesville. I wonder what would happen if a man tried to enter. Seems like he would be denied in the name of “woman power” but that doesn’t really seem fair either.

    • Hi kath, If a man tried to enter, you could make it a lot of fun. Perhaps they would have to dress as “over the top” women (tutus etc) and their entry fees would go specifically to a great cause, such as one that supports women!

  2. Yay to you! What a great and inspiring story. Times have changed for the better in many ways thanks to efforts such as these. Love Snoopy on your poster!

  3. Such a cool ending to a story that began years ago! Love June Cotner! You are an inspiration and your daughter is doing a great job following your footsteps and making her own!

    • I’m so grateful for Barbara Younger and her “Friend for the Ride” blog that gives women the opportunity to write posts for her blog. This is my second article she published. The first was my “Take a Hike!” post. Now, with Barbara’s encouragement, I’m working on an article about my “all-dormie” Powder Puff Football team at U. C. Berkeley. We were initially denied entry into the “Sororities Only” league. We called ourselves I ETA PI and we took first place and went on to become a “Football Dynasty”–according to the S.F. Chronicle!

  4. Thanks June! Can’t wait for your next piece. I thought of you this morning as I added a bit of jogging to my morning walk. Going to try to get up to a five K. We’ll see…

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