On June 8th, over 6,000 female runners marked the 40th anniversary of the New York Road Runners Mini 10K race. Founded on June 3, 1972 by running legends Kathrine Switzer and Nina Kuscsik, with the support of NYRR founder Fred Lebow, it was the first ever, women-only road race. Originally named the Crazylegs Mini Marathon (after the race sponsor’s pink shaving cream and the fashionable mini skirt), an astounding 78 women participated and ran the 6-mile course through Central Park in New York City, making history and creating opportunities for women athletes all over the world.
It’s hard to believe today, but prior to 1970 races were only for men. It was not because women didn’t want to run, but rather we weren’t allowed to. There was no women’s distance running at all, not even in the Olympics (women were first allowed to participate in the Olympic marathon starting in 1984). In 1967, Switzer registered for the Boston Marathon and ran two miles before being spotted by a race official. Enraged that a woman would attempt to run the race, the official leapt off a truck and tried to rip the racing number from her shirt, but Switzer persevered and finished the race. Women were finally allowed to officially enter the Boston Marathon starting 1972. The first woman winner of that race in 1972, was none other than Nina Kuscsik. This win, combined with Switzer’s run in 1967, generated the type of publicity needed to launch the unprecedented Crazylegs Mini Marathon.
The Crazylegs Mini Marathon was only the first of many historic moments for women athletes. Only three weeks after the race, Title IX was passed, which mandated that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity”. This had significant impact on women’s funding for sports and forever changed women’s participation in all athletics.
Today, there are over 200 women-only events held in the U.S. where women of all ages, colors, sizes and abilities join together, striving to achieve their personal goals. Although there is some controversy among the racing community regarding the continued need for women-only events today, many of us who have participated in these races agree that you find a kind of motivation and inspiration in the overall spirit of an all women’s event that you can’t find elsewhere.
If you have never participated in a race before, a women-only race is a great way to give it a try. Here are some popular women-only road races, triathlons and extreme races to look out for. You can find additional local events here.