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Women’s Olympic Marathon

When was the first Women’s Olympic Marathon and who was the winner?

There are 39 days remaining until the start of the 2012 Olympics.  Along with Wimbledon and the World Cup (two years and counting), this is one of my favorite things about summer.  Running, swimming, gymnastics, more soccer, more tennis – I can’t wait.  On Sunday, August 5 at 11:00 a.m., the 7th women’s marathon in the Olympics will take place.  Yes, you read correctly.  Seventh.  There have only been 6 other women marathons in the Olympics before 2012.  I’m all about girl power, and I find this fact to be astounding.  How is it possible that the women’s marathon has only been an official Olympic event for 28 years while the men’s marathon was one of the original events, 116 years ago?

Women have been running long distances for a long time.  The first woman to be officially timed in a marathon was Violet Piercy of Great Britain, with a time of 3:40:22 back in 1926.  In 1966, Roberta Gibb snuck into the Boston Marathon, completing the event with an unofficial time of 3:21:25 and in 1967, Kathrine Switzer crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon with a time of 4:20. However,  the women’s marathon didn’t become an Olympic event until 1984.  I was one year old.

On August 5, 1984, 50 women from 28 different countries competed in the first ever women’s marathon at the Los Angeles Summer Games.  Among the starters were Joan Benoit, Grete Weitz and Rosa Mota – all great champions for their time.  Of those 50 women who began, 44 completed the race and the last woman to cross the finish line was Eleonora Mendonca, with a time of 2:52:19.  The gold medal winner was American Joan Benoit.  Two weeks after knee surgery, she made history with a time of 2:24:52, the third fastest women’s marathon at that time.  Check out this video of Benoit crossing the finish line at the 1984 Summer Olympics:


I can’t imagine being told I am not allowed to run in any event.  Although I will clearly not be participating in the Olympic marathon, I am truly grateful to those women and men who worked to make it happen.  Exactly 28 years from the first Women’s Olympic Marathon, Kara Goucher, Shalane Flanagan, and Desiree Davila will be representing the United States in yet another historical event.  Kudos to these ladies and to all the other women who who refused to settle for “not allowed.”  In their honor, maybe I’ll host an all girl Olympic Marathon party the day of the race to celebrate… I think it could be fun.

Image from WomenTalkSports

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