Mary Hanudel – women’s six day races – part 5 – June 1984

Grainy newspaper photograph of Lorna Richey, Mary Hanudel and Louanne Oberly competing in the Port Clinton Marathon, Ohio in 1984. Richey is to the left of a group of five runners. She is wearing light coloured shorts and t-shirt with race number 28 pinned on it. Hanudel is next to her wearing light shorts and a dark sweatshirt with rolled up sleeves. She does not have a race number. Next to her is Louanne Oberly who is partly obscured by a man racing in front of her with no race shirt and his race number pinned to his shorts.

This is part five of a series of posts about the development of women’s six day races from 1981 onwards. In 1984, the six day record changed hands five times. Four women extended the distance by 91 miles that year. The first was British ultrarunner Christine Barrett at Stoke-on-Trent. This is the story of the second woman to set the record that year, American Mary Hanudel.

Summary of the world record progression

Mary Hanudel – June 1984 – Pennsauken New Jersey

Mary Hanudel ultrarunner competing in the Edward Payson Weston 6 Day Race in 1984. She is running and wearing a light coloured t-shirt and shorts. Her hair is short and she is smiling.

Hanudel competing in the six day race, Ultrarunning magazine

Mary Hanudel (born 1960) was just 24 when she set a new six day record at the Edward Payson Weston Six Day race at Pennsauken, New Jersey. It was the fifth edition of the race where Marcy Schwam had set the modern era record in 1981. The race took place from 17th to 23rd June. It was just a month since Christine Barrett had broken Eleanor Adams’ 1983 record at the Trentham Gardens Six Day Race in Stoke-on-Trent.

Hanudel was studying cardiovascular therapy at the University of Toledo. She joined the running classes given by visionary long-distance runner, Sy Mah. Thian “Sy” Mah (1926-1988) was a physical education instructor at the university. He held the record for the most marathons run and had run over 300 by 1984. Through his running classes he encouraged his young students, both men and women, to run marathons and ultras. This was very unusual at the time, particularly for women. He coached and mentored many runners, including Lorna Richey who was two years older than Hanudel. Richey had set the American six day record in 1983 when she ran 401 miles at the inaugural New York Six Day Race.

The Edward Payson Weston race was Hanudel’s first multi-day event. The furthest she had raced before was 50 miles.

The Edward Payson Weston Six Day Race 1984

The results of the Edward Payson Weston Six Day Race held in June 1984. Showing first to fourteenth places. From Ultrarunning magazine September 1984

First 14 results of the Edward Payson Weston race, Ultrarunning magazine

The race was held on a 440-yard cinder track in Cooper River Park, Pennsauken, New Jersey. The weather conditions were favourable with rain during the first two days followed by sunny, mild weather. In his race report in Ultrarunning magazine, Dan Brannen noted that, “It was the first year in this race’s history that the track was not flooded for at least a few hours.”

The men’s race was won by Don Choi, the American record-holder. Astonishingly, this was Choi’s fifth multi-day race in three months. He had competed in two six day races in April. Then in May, he’d completed the 875km Westfield Sydney to Melbourne run, followed by the Trentham Gardens Six Day Race.

Dan Brannen began his report with a description of the men’s race, but went on to say to the men “get in the back seat please because this one belonged to the women“. There were three women in the race: Hanudel, Myra Linden, 56, and Mary Margaret Goodwin, 46. According to Brannen, “this was the Mary and Myra show all the way“. Hanudel was the women’s winner with 423 miles, breaking Christine Barrett’s record by just over a mile. Linden ran 330 miles, 1320 yards. Brannen states this was a new masters record (age 40+), surpassing by over four miles the distance Carmel Baker had run in the Charles Rowell Six Day Race the year before.

Hanudel was very well supported during the race. She had Lorna Richey crewing for her. And Sy Mah paced her for some of the race finishing 19th with 307 miles. Hanudel followed his method which Brannen described:

The Mah method…consists…of a specified number of laps followed by a half-hour nap. No more, no less. No surges, no mileage-piling while the sun is down, no substantial sleeping. For Mary it was 45 minutes on, 30 minutes off. Round the clock, round the week.

Hanudel told a local paper, “I just love to run…It’s the challenge of having one good race.” She had been running 132 miles a week and was planning to compete in the Toronto Marathon in three weeks’ time.

Hanudel would not hold the six day record for long. The following month it was reclaimed by Eleanor Adams. 

Banner photo: Lorna Richey, Mary Hanudel, Louanne Oberly and two unnamed runners at the Port Clinton Marathon, Ohio, September 1984. Richey won the race which Hanudel had won the previous year. Hanudel was using it as a training run and had not entered officially. Source: The News Herald, Port Clinton, 24th September 1984.

Summary of the world record progression


Mary Hanudel Debuts with World Record, Dan Brannen, Ultrarunning magazine, September 1984.

Sy Mah’s Wikipedia entry

Interview with Lorna Richey Michael, February 2020

“Marathoners beat records in annual 6-day track race at park”, Courier-Post, 24th June 1984

Mary Hanudel’s Deutsche Ultramarathon Vereinigung listing

Don Choi’s DUV listing 


Six day world record history


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