I was immediately interested in Amby Burfoot’s new book, First Ladies of Running. Let’s face it, I’m already half sold on any book that covers the sport I love. But, this book was special to me as a husband and father as well. My wife, Tina, is an accomplished marathoner.  Abigail runs cross-country and track for her high school. I owe a debt of gratitude to the women who made that possible.

Would you believe that there is no record of a women ever finishing an American road race prior to 1961? In fact, at that time, it was against Amateur Athletic Union rules for women to run in races longer than 1.25 miles for fear they might ruin their chances for healthy reproduction. Julia Chase, a 19-year-old college student changed all that when she ran a 6.5 mile race in Chicopee, Massachusetts.

Julia Chase First Ladies of Running
Julia Chase, 1961 Manchester Road Race – courant.com

Two years later, in 1963, Merry Lepper became the first woman to run a marathon. She finished the Western Hemisphere Marathon in Culver City, California in 3:37:07. Then Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb became the first women to run the Boston Marathon in 1966. She won again in 1967 and 1968. It would be another four years before Nina Kuscsik would be recognized as the first “official” women’s winner of the Boston Marathon.

First Ladies of Running
Boston Marathon race director Jock Semple goes after Kathrine Switzer

First Ladies of Running profiles 22 inspiring women. You’ll read the stories of Kathrine Switzer, Mary Decker, Francie Larrieu, Michiko Gorman, Marilyn Bevins, Patti Catalano, Grete Waitz, and Joan Benoit. All of these women have helped create opportunities and remove obstacles so that women today can pursue their running dreams unfettered.

First Ladies of Running Oprah
runnersworld.com

Oprah Winfrey has made a remarkable impact on women’s running. When she finished the 1994 Marine Corps Marathon in 4:29:20, she ignited a women’s running boom that shows no signs of slowing. Oprah’s decision to do “something epic” as she turned 40 years old, has inspired millions of other women (and men like me) to do the same.

“Life is a lot like a marathon. If you can finish a marathon, you can do anything you want.”  -Oprah Winfrey

First Ladies of Running details the history of women’s running through interviews, stories, and pictures. Reading the stories of these remarkable women has me shaking my head at how ridiculous our world was just 50 years ago, and how far we’ve come. Thank goodness for progress and the brave souls that push the boundaries to make it happen.

I this book from the publisher for review.

Thoughts?