Gender Equality in Long-Distance Running

More than 200 women assembled in Atlanta to make a positive statement about gender equality in long-distance running events.

| May/June 1978

  • Avon Women's Marathon Start
    The Avon International Women's Championship Marathon was held in Atlanta on March 19, 1978 to promote gender equality in long-distance running events.
  • Avon Women's Marathon Good Form
    Marathon participant Cindy Dalrymple displays perfect form as she competes in the Avon International Women's Championship Marathon for gender equality in long-distance running.

  • Avon Women's Marathon Start
  • Avon Women's Marathon Good Form

They'd come along way, all right, from 29 states and nine different countries, to run a long way: 26 miles and 385 yards, to be exact. And, equally important, those 200-plus women who assembled in Atlanta on March 19, 1978 did so to make a very positive statement about gender equality in distance running events.

You talk about your doers. You talk about alternatives to the lifestyles so many people — men and women — can't (or won't) break out of. You talk about accomplishing something good for yourself that requires a sense of dedication and determination that'll leave you with a no-nonsense feeling of pride (whether or not you can still stand up when it's over is another matter!) that makes your whole body glow. You're talking marathon — the Avon International Women's Championship Marathon.

(Maybe you've never run at all, never had a desire to. If that's the case, read these Successful Jogging Tips. It might just change your mind and — at the very least — get you into attempting the basics. And someday — maybe upon maybe — the mystique of the marathon will sneak up on you!)

The women in these photographs aren't superwomen. They aren't laboratory-raised physiological phenomena. They're people, individuals who've found a fitness addiction they want to maintain. And, in just about every case, they started as joggers, as women who weren't able to run a mile, much less pace themselves over a hilly, demanding 26-mile road course in 75 to 80 degree heat in the company of the world's very best female runners.

That is exactly what these 225 women were doing in Atlanta at the Avon International Women's Championship Marathon,  their equivalent of an Olympic marathon. In fact, this is the closest that the females of our species have ever come to such an Olympic race. You see, women aren't allowed to run a marathon in the Olympics. They aren't allowed, in fact, to run any Olympic distance over 1,500 meters.

Why not? Well, that is often the case, for no reason.  Essentially, bureaucrats, and an incredible series of restrictions based on the archaic opinions of the gray flannel, sit on the International Olympic Committee, whose dignified but out-of-touch-with-reality membership has already denied women's participation in long-distance running events at the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games, and, unless something is done, the 1984 Games could easily fall prey to the same tunnel-visioned myopia.

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