In 1965, the year I first ran the Boston Marathon, there were no women in the field of about 400 participants. On Monday morning, 18th April, 2016, more than 13,000 women will start the 120th Boston Marathon.- Roberta Gibb
The Boston Marathon gender barrier fell 50 years ago, on April 19, 1966. That’s when Roberta Gibb, 23, crossed the finish line in 3 hours 21 minutes 40 seconds — finishing ahead of more than two-thirds of the male runners that day. To honor her breakthrough, Boston Marathon organizers have named Gibb, who is known as Bobbi, grand marshal of this year’s race.
The women’s running boom is one of the most revolutionary stories in sports, yet it is under-chronicled. Running serves as the foundation for many other sports, and women began running before they poured into tennis, soccer and basketball. They also learned many profound lessons from their successes in running.
I believe running is a source of empowerment for both men and women. Yes, women have to fight the stereo-typist culture prevalent in many sections of society where sports, especially running, is considered the least likely activity a women is supposed to engage in. I have seen age-old misconceptions regarding women entering onto the track, citing health implications and societal rejection as valid reasons to stay from engaging in it.
With the aim to emit positivity, I will not talk about what has stopped women from engaging in running as actively as men but what makes them serious competitors on the jogging track today. Women like Paula Radcliffe who ran the full marathon with a world record time of 2:15:25 or Indian runners like Kavita Raut and Preeja Sreedharan, and the all-time inspiration P.T. Usha have become household names and an inspiration for women all around because of their running abilities. It gives immense joy to see that almost every running competition sees women participating by the dozens and that women are breaking the shackles which inhibited them from stepping into running shoes. We all know of the illnesses like diabetes, depression, obesity, cardiovascular problems that running can fight.
Let me share a short story which I read on Facebook. A woman from Thane had shared her story and it is insanely motivational to all who fear running or are simply too lazy to try it. So, here it goes:
A single mother, 24 years of age was heart-broken when her one and a half year old son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Realizing her helplessness, she slowly started slipping into depression and indulged in binge-eating, putting on over 25kgs. She was on the verge of a nervous breakdown with mental tension, obesity and health problems crippling her. And that is when she was advised to join a gymnasium. She did join it but, seeing it shut down just a few days later, she decided to go for a short run. And from then on, the story is a series of her successful fight against all her problems. The relaxation that running gave her, made her run daily. And soon she ran the Mumbai half marathon in 2007. She changed from a complaining mother to one who has made her specially-abled son independent and specially skilled in gadget design. She ran the Delhi full marathon in 2016, her 100th race. I can only marvel at her story. But this is what running can do to people and has impacted lives positively all around.
Enter the park. Step onto the road. Run 10m, 50m, 100m, half a km or even one round of the park daily. You will start loving it. Don’t force yourself. Take it as it goes and trust me, you will never know when you convert from a novice runner to one who runs 21km or even 42km. Run because it keeps you fit. Run because you love the air breezing past you and the smiling faces that greet you. Run because you end up discovering nature. Don’t run for records. Don’t measure distances and don’t count the seconds ticking by. Run because you lose track of time.
And yes, every woman can run scores of miles. You just have to step out.