Women’s running history
and the stories of older women runners
My reason for starting this blog was that I wanted to share and give value to the stories of older female runners. Having turned 50, I was aware that I had reached an age where women are less valued by society and can seem to become invisible. They are generally not expected to be physically active, and active older women rarely appear in the media. When they do, the narrative often focuses on them as exceptions to the rule and casts them as “supergrans”. Exceptional stories can alienate us, as we may feel that we can never aspire to the same level of achievement. I believe that “ordinary” stories hold just as much value and we can learn just as much, if not more, from them.
I’ve conducted face to face interviews with six women, aged 50 to 70-plus, with different running biographies and motivations. This blog started as an informal research project and I have analysed the first four interviews, looking at how the women became involved in long-distance running.
Since starting the blog in 2014, I’ve become more and more interested in the history of women’s endurance running, and the campaign for women to be allowed to run marathons. I’ve written about pioneering marathon runners Dale Greig, Joyce Smith, Kathrine Switzer and Jacqueline Hansen, and about Diane Leather, the first woman to run a mile in under 5 minutes.
I’m writing a series of articles about top British ultrarunner Eleanor Robinson.
I believe that it is important to share these stories from the past. Stories which show what women achieved in the face of limited opportunities and prejudice. Stories that built the foundations for women’s sport today. We should not allow the prejudice of the time to make them invisible to us now.
My Running Story
My running story
I started running in 2011, aged 47, to raise funds for the charity where I was a trustee. I had promised I would run a leg in the Robin Hood Marathon relay. Once I had said I would do it I had to carry it through and by the time I’d done the training for the event seven months later I was hooked on running. That five mile relay leg felt like a huge achievement and it was great fun! I enjoy running and racing and that motivates me to continue. I celebrated my 50th birthday in 2013 with the feeling that running was making me younger as I am fitter now than I was at 40.
Since I started this blog in 2014 I’ve done several things that I never thought I would, including competing in cross country races, track races and a 24-hour running event. I’ve found lots of new paths and places to run and become part of a running community, through my club and my local parkrun. Like many other people who take up a sport in middle age, I’ve been surprised by what I can achieve and I’m looking forward to what comes next.
Podcast music: Hasenchat at pixabay.com, photo: Athletic.Photography
Interviews and Articles
Interviews with me
Blue Sky Running, Competitive after 50, March 2020
Dr Juliet McGrattan’s active women series, January 2019
Video interview with Tony Pallotta, Runners Connect, included in an article: What does it means to become a masters athlete?, October 2017
Articles in print
There’ll be no prizes for women, Like the Wind magazine #25 (an article about Dale Greig), September 2020
Female Leadership at Fifty – Pursuing my curiosity, November 2019
Most Read Articles
The six most popular articles on my blog recently….
It is 6am on Friday 31st July 1987 and the temperature at the Badwater sinkhole in Death Valley, California, is already over 30°C. By midday it will rise to over 40°C. British ultrarunner Eleanor Adams stands with three others waiting to start the...
In January I added three women to my list of running bloggers over 50. I noticed that all three of them run ultra distance races. Alene Nitzky, from Colorado USA, has been running ultras since 1991 and has run the Badwater 135 race twice. Carolin...
Sir Roger Bannister's death on 3rd of March 2018 was widely reported in the UK and around the world. Bannister's achievement of being the first man to run a mile in less than 4 minutes led to global fame and he was held in the highest esteem in the...
This is the story of how I got to the starting line of my first marathon and what happened on the day. Getting ready for the Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon on Sunday 9th October 2016 I thought about the interview I had done with Sandy Poole in January...
Today (18th October) is World Menopause Day. I've spent quite a bit of time on Twitter participating in an awareness raising campaign organised by Henpicked, a network for women over 40, using the hashtag #HotFlashMob. It's probably the first time...
On a sunny day in August 1980 200 women from 27 countries lined up in Battersea Park in London to run a marathon. It was the first time the city's streets had ever been closed for a race. It was the 3rd August. Two days before the men's marathon...