50 Years of Women Running Marathons

Fifty years ago, the running industry allowed the first woman to run in a marathon. Prior to that, women were considered “too fragile” to run.

Well, look how far we’ve come!

Today, women make up nearly 50 percent of all marathon participants in the U.S. – making American female runners the highest participants in the world.

To celebrate 50 years of women running marathons, the iconic Boston Marathon is recognizing this anniversary. Locally, the Mercy Health Glass City Marathon is also noting this memorable event by highlighting many of the women in the elite field.

Mercy Health with the Glass City Marathon is celebrating 50 years of women running in marathons on April 24.

What is so significant about running a marathon that large numbers of women lace up their shoes at the starting line?

Mercy Health physical therapist, Dayna Pirrwitz, who is a runner herself, works alongside runners to ensure every runner can race at their peak performance. “If you ask a runner the question of why they run, you are bound to get a variety of answers because of the individuality of the sport,” she said.

Running boosts a person’s overall health, including the reduction of heart disease and stroke.

“Many women run for cardiovascular fitness, weight loss, to build muscle or to reduce anxiety. Other women are moms running taking time to themselves to become the best version of themselves for their family,” she said. “Many women who have chronic medical conditions even use running to control the symptoms of their disease.

For example, osteoporosis, which is most prevalent in women, often leads to stress fractures. However, running can strengthen the muscles and joints in a person’s legs reducing forces that torque the bones.

One of the most impactful aspects of running is often the community that comes with it. Local running groups can be found nationwide, making the sport simple and universal. With just a pair of shoes, nearly any woman can be a runner.

“Runners are so unique. The community is welcoming and supportive and just happy to see others joining in,” Dayna said.