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.
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.