Over the years, the world has witnessed a significant change and attitudinal shift in both women’s and society’s thoughts about women’s equality and emancipation1, and International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate these changes. While there’s some way to go to equality, take the day to reflect on the achievements and thinking about the future changes that have the potential to take shape.
More than 50 years ago, it was believed that women were physiologically incapable of running a marathon, and if you tried you were likely to be pulled off the race course. In 1966, Bobbi Gibb received a letter in the post from the organisers of the Boston Marathon, a disqualifying letter – The Amateur Athletic Union prohibited women from running farther than 1.5 miles and the organisers couldn’t “take the liability” of having her compete. Instead of being disheartened, she disguised herself in a hoodie and her brother’s Bermuda shorts and started running. While it was soon obvious that she was a woman, she received encouragement from spectators and finished in three hours, 21 minutes – ahead of two-thirds of the male competitors2.
Gibb set the tone, her mission changed once she received the disqualifying letter: to overcome prejudice against women in sports. While we’ve come a long way, more is still being done for equality of women in sport.
Paula Radcliffe took the women’s marathon record in the 2003 London Marathon with a time of two hours and fifteen minutes – the fastest man’s time is two hours and two minutes from Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto in 2013. The time gap is closing, despite TIME magazine hypothesising that women will never be able to run a marathon faster than men3.
In fact, that theory is already wrong; five women runners won outright victories at ultra-marathons across the United States in 20164.
There are women throughout history defying the odds in sports, look to Serena Williams, Bobbi Gibb, Paula Radcliffe, and many others for inspiration. There is always more than can be done, you can defy the odds.
Preparing yourself for running, whether competitive or not, should be on your agenda; proper training, kit and food choices. Rob Hobson, Head of Nutrition at Healthspan, says: “Iron is the most common nutrient deficiency worldwide and women are more at risk than men. Findings from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey have shown that 27% of women do not get enough iron from their diet putting them at risk of anaemia, which causes chronic tiredness and fatigue5. This is a particular issue for female sports professionals6."
Whether you’re running for your happiness, your health, your rights or just for fun with friends, remember all of the amazing female sports stars who helped pave the way.
1International Women's Day
2Ailsa Ross (2018). The Woman Who Crashed the Boston Marathon, JSTOR Daily
3Laura Blue (2008). Will women ever outrun men?, Time
4Erin Strout (2016). 2 Records and 5 Outright Wins in an Amazing Weekend for Women Ultrarunners, Runner's World
5FSA and PHE (2018). NDNS: results from years 7 and 8, Gov.UK
6Alaunyte I, Stojceska V, Plunkett A, Derbyshire E. (2018) Dietary iron intervention using a staple food product for improvement of iron status in female runners., Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition