women’s Boston Marathon peloton has come a long way in 50 years – Hartford Courant
BOSTON — — Val Rogosheske had heard stories of women hiding in bushes and jumping up to run the Boston Marathon.
In the spring of 1972, six years after Bobbi Gibb jumped off a forsythia bush into the marathon field, Rogosheske just assumed she would do the same kind of thing.
But she received a call a few weeks before the race, informing her that she would be one of eight official female entries for the April 18 race.
Fifty years later on Monday, Rogosheske, 75, will run the Boston Marathon again, this time with her two daughters. She is part of this year’s honorary women’s team which highlights women who have contributed to women’s sport.
And far from 1972, she will join 12,000 other women, who make up almost half of the field of 28,000.
Rogosheske, who lives in Minneapolis, won’t run fast; she plans to walk and run and hopefully finish within the six-hour deadline.
“I had to change my standards a bit,” she laughed. “When I decided to do this, I was going to direct everything. My times are so slow, and the BAA asked me if I could finish in under six hours and I said, ‘Oh, sure’ , then I started timing myself and I thought, ‘Oh fuck, this is going to be harder than I thought.'”
In 1969, Rogosheske had just graduated from St. Cloud State as a physical education major. She hadn’t played any organized sports in high school or college because there were none. Someone asked her how fast she could run a mile and intrigued, she went to a local track to see.
It was embarrassing. She couldn’t even complete a mile.
So she bought Bill Bowerman’s 1967 book Jogging: A Physical Fitness Program For All Ages and started running.
Meanwhile, women were agitating for official recognition at races. Gibb jumped from the bushes in 1966. Kathrine Switzer was tackled by angry race manager Jock Semple in 1967. Sara Mae Berman, who lived in Cambridge, Mass., was the unofficial women’s winner in Boston from 1969 to 1971. Nina Kuscsik, who finished 30 seconds behind Berman in 1971, was one of two women to finish under 3 hours for the first time at the 1971 New York City Marathon.
“It was a very long and tedious process,” Switzer said. “First of all, we continued to run and to be more and more visible.
“Sara Mae Berman and Nina Kuscsik were getting incredibly competitive. They were down about 3 hours. It was way ahead of a lot of guys at the time. The press was saying, ‘These women are really good athletes, we seen them for years, what’s the problem?’ The men themselves were extremely supportive.
They fought for recognition. In the fall of 1970, the Road Runners Club of America held its first women’s marathon (the AAU does not recognize this). Berman won.
The AAU finally capitulated. Boston would be the first AAU-sanctioned marathon to recognize women – as long as they had a separate start.
“We went and put some chalk on the sidewalk,” Switzer said. “We said, ‘OK, this is our starting line’ and lined up.”
Rogosheske had set her sights on Boston after finding herself unmotivated to get out and run for a few days. Her husband, a lifelong athlete, suggested she try running a marathon. She enrolled in Boston. She had contracted mononucleosis at the end of 1971 and after spending the month of January in bed, she started training but only had two months to do so. His longest run was 16 miles.
She received a call from the BAA a few weeks before the race and was happy to learn that she would be an official participant and that she didn’t have to jump bushes.
There was a catch: we had to qualify for Boston.
“He was just checking things in and reminding me that we were supposed to stick to those qualifying times,” Rogosheske said. “I think all the other women had done marathons and run under 3:30. So I was honest and said, ‘I only ran 16 miles’, but I think he thought I had practiced enough that I would be fine.
“I was so happy, I didn’t even realize it at the time that I almost didn’t make it.”
There were 1,200 runners on the field that day, including all eight women.
“There was a sense of excitement in the air and there was a sense of historical significance,” Rogosheske said.
It was also hot. Rogosheske didn’t know how to dress so she wore nylon orienteering pants, a short-sleeved shirt, a bucket hat and men’s shoes, Onitsuka Tigers, the marathon model. They had no support and Rogosheske felt hot and hurt in his feet at the end of the race.
But she didn’t waver and she didn’t even think about stopping. The eyes of the world were on women.
“I don’t think we said it, but when I was at the start line it was kind of in the air – no giving up and no walking,” she said.
Kuscsik won, Switzer was third, Berman, who had the flu, was fifth and Rogosheske sixth.
She returned to Boston two more years, clocking a personal best 3:09 in 1974. She ran seven marathons in total, but a combination of injuries and illness forced her to stop running the distance in 1977.
She thinks of the path traveled by the women’s movement at that time. One of his daughters, Allie, got a scholarship to play football in Wisconsin.
“It’s so nice to see [women’s sports] grow,” Rogosheske said. “It seems like it happened quickly, too, from going from no sports at all for me to my daughter being able to get a scholarship to play football at UW-Madison — that’s pretty cool in a generation.”
Lori Riley can be reached at [email protected]