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Added: Branden Rolling - Date: 09.04.2022 20:01 - Views: 41958 - Clicks: 3488

The following is an excerpt from my memoir, Marathon Woman. While Marathon Woman tells the fuller story of my life before, during and after the momentous Boston Marathon, this excerpt deals mostly with that race itself. By the way, the drawings in this article are taken from the famous series of photos which are displayed on the home slider; they are courtesy of the Boston Herald newspaper. My entry and run in the Boston Marathon is usually the first thing people ask me about, and it is important to have the facts presented accurately. Over the years, many sources of information—the internet and poorly researched books especially—present distortions and inaccuracies.

I encourage writers, historians, journalists and students to read and quote from this story first rather than attempt to piece together misinformation handed down from source to source. Please also understand that it is not practical for me to do repeated personal interviews when the facts and quotes are here at hand. Thank you! Download the article in a PDF.

On a dark six-mile run in a wild snowstorm in mid-DecemberI had a terrible argument with my otherwise kindly old coach, Arnie Briggs. It was in Syracuse, New York, where God first invented snow and never let up.

Arnie was actually the university mailman and a veteran of 15 Boston Marathons. He was excited to see a woman—the first—come out to run, and took slowpoke me under his training wing. To cajole me through tough evening sessions like this, Arnie told and retold stories of famous Bostons. Arnie insisted the distance was too long for fragile women to run and exploded when I said that Roberta Gibb had jumped into the race and finished it the April. Hot damn, I thought, I have a coach, a training partner, a plan, and a goal: the biggest race in the world—Boston.

Three weeks before the marathon, Arnie and I ran our mile trial. Arnie agreed, reluctantly. Toward the end of our mile run, he began turning grey. When we finished, I hugged him ecstatically—and he passed out cold. We checked the rule book and entry form; there was nothing about gender in the marathon. Unlike today, the marathon did not require qualifying times then.

Arnie got the travel permits and mailed our entries. Then John Leonard, from the university cross-country team, decided to come, too. In all, we had a pretty formidable crew ready to take on the marathon. I thought it was neat that folks in Massachusetts got a special holiday commemorating the young American patriots who fought the British in the first battles of the American Revolution.

Part of what made the Boston Marathon special to me was its historical importance. I had no idea I was going to become part of that history. We found a motel in Natick, and after dinner Arnie insisted on showing us the course even though it was nearly 10 p. The drive seemed an eternity, and I had this impending feeling of doom—here we were driving at 40 miles an hour and it was taking forever. It is totally demoralizing to see how far 26 miles actually is.

I called my parents in Virginia when I got back to my room. And he delivered perfectly. It was just what I needed to hear. I could get diarrhea. I could get hit by a dolt opening his car door—Arnie told me about that happening once. Eventually, I got too tired to worry about things I could not control. The thing I worried about most was courage. I was worried about maybe not having the courage if it got awful. Arnie said to chow down; we needed a lot of fuel because it was a long day and cold outside.

So we ate everything: bacon, eggs, pancakes, juice, coffee, milk, extra toast. What was annoying was that I had wanted to look nice and feminine at the start in my just-ironed burgundy shorts and top.

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We went back to our rooms, packed our stuff, and I carefully put on makeup and gold earbobs. Tom banged on my door holding out a sanitary napkin bag from the back of the toilet and a big safety pin. See, you put four tablets in the bottom of the sack, rip off the top, fold it over, and pin it to your glove.

When you need the dextrose, you rip it open. Just pin it, already. It was easier not to argue. Still, I felt idiotic, but when I got to the car, Arnie and John had sanitary napkin bags pinned to their gloves, too. What a team! When we got to Hopkinton High School, the snow was really coming down.

A few minutes later, Arnie came out with the envelope and two bibs each, to pin on our fronts and backs; they looked like cardboard plates. We looked up our names in the printed start list and smiled at each other nervously. There were people listed on the program, a huge race. I pinned my s on my sweatshirt and not my burgundy top. I was pleased; the sweatshirt had been a buddy in Syracuse for several hundred miles and would live on another day, rather than dying at the roide on the way to Boston.

We started warming up.

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Everyone was darting about in different directions, all in grey sweat suits, some with hoods up, some with nylon windbreakers over them, some bare-legged, and some with shorts over the pants, a method of wearing sweats I never could understand. We all looked alike, like ragtags. Many of these guys turned right around and jogged over, all excited. You gonna go the whole way? He was shining. Indeed, I felt very welcome. I felt special and proud of myself. There was a mob of runners in every getup imaginable funneling into a penlike area.

At the gate of the funnel were clipboard-holding Boston Athletic Association officials wearing long overcoats with blue ribbons on the lapels and felt dress hats. Everyone was sodden; hats were gathering snow, as were the shoulders of the runners standing in the pen. It was pretty disorganized, and the officials were agitated. No problem! All around us the men were pleased to have a woman in their presence. Then the crowd quieted; someone up front must have been making announcements.

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We moved close together, and the smell of liniment was so strong that my eyes stung. The gun went off, and we were away at last. Boston was always Mecca for runners. Now I, too, was one of the anointed pilgrims. After months of training with Arnie and dreaming about this, here we were, streaming alongside the village common and onto the downhill of Route with hundreds of our most intimate companions, all unknown, but all of whom understood what this meant and had worked hard to get here.

More than ever before at a running event, I felt at home. The first few miles of every marathon are fun. The running is easy, the crowd noise is exciting, and your companions are conversational and affable. So it was as we ran in our little group, four abreast, joking and saying thanks to the many well-wishers who passed us with encouragement.

Arnie and Tom were in their element, running with me—a girl! All the positive encouragement gave them attention they had never had before. Tom ran with his chest stuck out, and even Arnie pranced; it was nice to see. Following close behind the truck was a city bus. It was the photo press truck; on the back were risers so the cameramen could each get a clean shot as the vehicle pushed up to the front of the field.

Suddenly, though, the truck slowed to be right in front of us, and the photographers were taking our pictures. In fact, they were getting pretty excited to see a woman in the race, a woman wearing s!

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I could see them fumbling to look up my and name, and then shoot again. I did a kind of stutter step, we all had to jostle around him. I thought he was a nutty spectator, but when I passed I caught a glimpse of a blue and gold BAA ribbon on his lapel. Where had he come from? Moments later, I heard the scraping noise of leather shoes coming up fast behind me, an alien and alarming sound amid the muted thump thumping of rubber-soled running shoes. He missed the s, but I was so surprised and frightened that I slightly wet my pants and turned to run.

Arnie knows this maniac, I thought wildly, as I tried to pull away. The bottom was dropping out of my stomach; I had never felt such embarrassment and fear. I felt unable to flee, like I was rooted there, and indeed I was, because the man, this Jock guy, had me by the shirt.

Then a flash of orange flew past and hit Jock with a cross-body block. It was Big Tom, in the orange Syracuse sweatshirt. There was a thud—whoomph! He landed on the roide like a pile of wrinkled clothes. Now I felt terror. I was dazed and confused. Everyone was shouting. The driver accelerated, popped the clutch, and I heard the truck buck and what unfortunately sounded like photographers, tripods, and crank cameras crashing down in a cursing melee. Tom really looked as if steam was coming out of his ears; he was still in full bombastic mode, and each curse of his was accompanied by another jab or a challenging look over his shoulder.

John looked bewildered. But it was clear Jock was some kind of official—in fact, he turned out to be the race manager—and he was out of control. That was how scared I felt, as well as deeply humiliated, and for just a tiny moment, I wondered if I should step off the course.

I did not want to mess up this prestigious race.

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But the thought was only a flicker. I knew if I quit, nobody would ever believe that women had the capability to run plus miles. If I quit, everybody would say it was a publicity stunt.

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If I quit, Jock Semple and all those like him would win. My fear and humiliation turned to anger. The press truck caught up to us and hovered with its droning engine alongside, three feet away. Off the back and side the journalists began firing aggressive questions, and the photographers hung out close to get face shots. How quickly their tone had changed. I was polite but no longer friendly. They wrote down what they wanted to write down. This made me even more resolved.

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