It’s always fun to look back with longing at days gone by and imagine it as rosy, less complicated by technology, easier to connect with your community and all the other fairy tales.
But if we’re being honest, the good ol’ days when it comes to running sucked!
Sure, sure I know some people would say it was better back then because everyone was faster, times were more competitive and only “serious” runners partook. To which I say, BAHHUMBUG!!!
One of the best things about running now is it’s available to us all!
NYC marathon is coming up this weekend which is largely what got me thinking about how far the sport has come. From a small repeat loop through Central Park to taking over the city, our sport has transformed, which makes complete sense when you think about what it does for us daily.
A fun look back and where things started!!
Good Old Gear
As a minimialist in most areas of my life, the one I make an exception for is running gear. I adore new shoes. I love my compression tights and don’t get me started on playing with various GPS watches.
However, I think I could probably do without some of these old school pieces!! (most photos thanks to Getty Images)
Let’s start in 1905 where women got to wear these dashing full body billowy, unbreathable uniforms for a backyard workout because of course they weren’t allowed to run. You know that might cause their ovaries to fall out!!! Moving on to 1925 these high-heeled sneakers were designed to ensure women continued to maintain their femininity while playing sports. A little better perhaps than the shrink it and pink it which came in the 80’s (Hal Roth/American Federation of Arts/Bata Shoe Museum)
And of course long prior to women being allowed to run, there is what’s considered to be the world’s oldest existing running shoe from the early 1860s. (Greg Washington/American Federation of Arts/Bata Shoe Museum)
As we know things slowly evolved from there and by the 1970‘s tiny track shorts began to make their appearance, shortly after the 80’s brought us track suits. Of course shortly after that for most of us was the time of cotton shirts, sweat bands, carrying a CD walkman and shorts that fit like diapers.I feel quite blessed to be wearing today’s gear which is actually designed for the female body (even if mine is shaped like a surfboard rather than an hourglass).
Where are the Women?
We’ve already touched on the old falling out ovaries myth, but even once women could particpate we often founds ourselves back on the bench:
- In 1961, the AAU 1961 banned women competing in US road races
- In 1967, Katherine Switzer is nearly pushed off the Boston marathon course mid-race
- In 1978, Nike creates first womens running shoe, but really nothing was female specific for many years.
- In 1980, American College of Sports Medicine states there is no scientific evidence it’s unhealthy for women to run marathons
- A dearth of women’s only races ensue, which again we can thank for a lot spandex and sweatbands.
- In 1996, Girls on the Run was founded leading to a new generation of runners!
Now there are more women runners at most races than men (57% as of 2015). Signaling a shifting tide from racing only for competition to running because it feels good, it’s a great way to connect, get outside and all the other reasons we love it so much. On the rosy side:
The marathon used to be shorter, which would do a lot to help me earn a Boston Qualifying time! The first NYC marathon was 24.5 miles won in 2:55:10 as an all-male event.
Changes in Racing Attitudes?
How did we go from the first Boston marathon in 1897 to the famous Boston Qualifying standards being introduced in 1970? My guess is mostly the track suit, who didn’t want to wear one of those?! For many years, running was a very outsider sport, it was “regarded as eccentric at best, subversive and dangerous at worst.”
But as families continued to move away from hard labor on a farm to city life, where people had time to exercise and of course we started allowing women to run!! Credit is also given to Frank Shorter, Jim Ryun and Steve Prefontaine for breaking records, capturing the worlds attention and giving new focus to the sport.
Of course at the time SPEED was the goal and the first Boston marathon female winner finished in 3:10:26! Nina Kuscsik was one of eight women who signed up in 1972.Meanwhile at the first NYC marathon winners were given inexpensive wristwatches and recycled baseball and bowling trophies. Considering the $1 entry fee…I think that was pretty generous! Now of course the race is nearly $300 to enter and there’s $825,000 up for grabs.
- the gear has changed
- some runners have smashed records they said could never be done
- the average runner has gotten slower
- more women than men are lining up
- races have taken on crazy variations with costumes, obstacles
- runners create entire clubs largely for socializing, not just track workouts
- trail running has boomed and people are running well beyond marathon distances
And yet, fundamentally…isn’t it still the same? Each one of us hitting the road to prove something to ourselves about what we can achieve?
This is what I always wonder about…where will running take us next? Am I going to be around when wind suits become uber trendy again? Neon is already back…sweatbands? Will we forsake all the gadgets and become fans of all-natural running? Will we all get so fed up with lotteries that we stop participating in the big expensive races?
What’s the biggest change in running you’ve seen?
What running trend do you hope happens next?
Other ways to connect with Amanda