Let’s Hear It for the Girls

It’s a tough world for a woman.  Society expects a lot from us.  We’re expected to work hard, run a household, and raise kids, all while magically maintaining a 24-inch waist and living up to an impossible standard of beauty.  There is, of course, equal pressure on men to succeed.  In celebration of the month that just passed, my article strays from the typical how-to approach to training.  As a woman, I’d like to address the issue of why we do what we do.

Men have always dominated the sports world.  As female athletes, we’re lucky to be able to compete on the same playing field.  This wasn’t always the case.  Forty years ago, people scoffed at the idea of a women’s cross-country team.  Then came Katherine Switzer, a pioneer of women’s running.  It was all by chance that Katherine ended up on Syracuse University’s men’s cross-country team:  there simply were no women’s athletics at Syracuse in the 1960s.  Although the coach wouldn’t allow her to be an official member of the team, he did allow her to practice with the team, which she did, every day.

Katherine went on to run the Boston Marathon when women weren’t allowed to run marathon–and she was almost kicked out mid-race when the race administrators discovered that the “K. Switzer” who had registered for the race was female! Katherine’s most celebrated feat may have been creating Avon International Running, the largest series of women’s athletic events.   These events attracted many more women around the world to athletics.  Most importantly, Avon was an integral force in getting the women’s marathon officially included in the 1984 Olympics.

She changed the world for all women and particularly for female athletes.  On a recent visit to New York City, I had the pleasure of meeting Katherine at a book signing for her new book Marathon Woman. I’d like to share an excerpt from her book with you:

“In 1967, few would have believed that marathon running would someday attract millions of women, become a glamour event in the Olympics and on the streets of major cities, help transform views of women’s physical ability and help redefine their economic roles in traditional cultures.

It happened because on a basic level, running empowers women and raises their self-esteem while promoting physical fitness easily and inexpensively…We learned that women are not deficient in endurance and stamina, and that running requires no fancy facilities or equipment.  Women’s marathoning has created a global legacy.”

We all have our own passions and drives—and thanks to people like Katherine Switzer, woman all over the world can follow their passions.  My passion is showing people that self-limitation is what holds us back.  This does not simply apply to athletics—believing in yourself helps all of us achieve peak performance in our business and personal lives too.

Exercising enables us to believe in ourselves more than we ever thought possible.  You’ll constantly be surprised by what your body can do.  Make it a priority.  It reduces stress, keeps your healthy, gives you energy, maintains your weight, increases your quality of life and, most importantly, gives you a good sense of self.  Eat well, seek balance and make time for yourself.  When you feel good, and feel good about yourself, you will perform better in all things in life.

Women have come so far as runners, athletes, and positive role models for the people in our lives.  There is no better time to take action, to be inspired by the women that have come before you, and to inspire all those that come after you.

Have the courage to believe in yourself. We can all be marathon women.

“There will always be something to strive for.  My hope is for the heart to strive forever.”  – Joan Benoit Samuleson, winner of the inaugural women’s marathon in the 1984 Olympic Games

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