The Lady Runners of the 1976 Honolulu Marathon


My husband and I recently travelled to Tempe, Arizona to support our 25 year old daughter, who competed in the Ironman Triathlon:  140 miles of swimming, biking and running.  As we watch the athletes warming up,  I am taken back to Honolulu, Hawaii, thirty six years ago.


Pictures courtesy of the Honolulu Marathon Clinic.


I completed my first marathon on December 12, 1976, the fourth Honolulu Marathon.  Things have changed big time.  I ran in men’s shorts and shoes because there were no women’s running gear.  I wore very Germanic Adidas shoes made of non-breathable white leather with dark blue stripes.  Each shoe weighed the same as a small dog.  My running shorts had a mesh insert, cut to support a man’s body, not a woman’s.  Wedgies were a constant problem.

The running clothes I saw at the Ironman were all sex appropriate, breathable, lightweight, sun-resistant and extremely color-coordinated.  The shoes were brilliant neon colors in orange, yellow and green.  The soles, highly waffled, were ridged and structured to protect the foot.  The cost:  a Benjamin Franklin plus.


My Adidas shoes probably cost me around $9.99 and every foot strike felt like a jackhammer up my calf.

My husband started running first.  He’d arise early on a Sunday morning to attend the Honolulu Marathon Clinic.  He’d complete a ten mile run and then return home. I’d be in bed at 11:00 a.m., smoking a Benson and Hedges.  We were headed for  “Can this marriage be saved?”

I decided to quit smoking and join him on the road.  I had never engaged in any type of sport.  Title IX was passed after I graduated from high school.  Girls had no high school sports.  We were offered modern dance.  My tenure in modern dance consisted of sitting on the floor cross-legged, and moving my hands in lackadaisical circles to “Louie, Louie.”  I never broke a sweat.

I attended the Honolulu Marathon Clinic religiously each Sunday.  I ran with other women who, much like me, were engaging in their first athletic endeavor.  We plodded along week after week, increasing our mileage slowly but surely.  We lost weight.  I beat my smoking habit. My marriage was saved.

In 1976, 1,443 runners finished the marathon and roughly 12% or 185 of them were women.  I finished 1,004th.  My number: 619.  My time:  four hours, thirty-four minutes and twelve seconds.  In the following years, I’d complete many more marathons, an ultra-marathon and a 65 mile bike ride.

My daughter and hundreds of other women completed the Ironman in Tempe. Congratulations to all of you, especially my daughter, Lia.

Lia-Ironman Tempe 2012

On December 9, 2012, approximately 20,000 runners will line up at the start of the Honolulu Marathon.  About half the runners or 50% will be women. As you run over the finish line, do me a favor, tip your hats to the lady runners of the 1976 Honolulu Marathon.

A 1976 Lady Runner in 2012