The History of Women's Running


Jackie Joyner-Kersee becomes the first female athlete to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated three years after her silver medal win in the 1984 Olympic heptathlon. Within the next decade, Joyner-Kersee will win an additional three gold and two bronze medals, making her one of the most decorated women runners of all time.


In the Barcelona Summer Olympics, sprinter Gail Devers proves that you can be a super feminine super-athlete when she wins the 100-meter dash with a fabulously flashy manicure.


At the age of 40, Oprah Winfrey crosses the finish line at the Marine Corps Marathon after dropping more than 80 pounds. The media mogul illustrates that marathons aren't just for athletes, but for anyone who's willing to work hard. "Running is the greatest metaphor for life," says Winfrey, "because you get out of it what you put into it."


Social worker and Hawaii Ironman triathlete Molly Barker founds Girls on the Run with the goal of helping girls ages eight to 12 gain self-confidence by training for a 5K. Barker's first program includes 13 students in Charlotte, North Carolina, but the program soon spreads to 173 cities across North America with over 100,000 participants.


Ultrarunner Pam Reed wins the Badwater Ultramarathon, a 135-mile course that snakes through Death Valley in the middle of July when temperatures sore to 120 degrees. Reed places first outright beating all the other women and men--proving that when it comes to toughness, ladies have it in spades.


Nicole Deboom raises spectators' eyebrows when she wins Ironman Wisconsin while wearing a running skirt. That same year, the athlete founds Skirt Sports, thereby changing the go-to race-day outfit of women across the world.

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Marathon world-record holder Paula Radcliffe wins the New York City Marathon just 10 months after giving birth to her first child. The image of Britain's Radcliffe wrapped in the Union Jack while carrying her baby daughter after the race serves as inspiration for mother-runners everywhere.


Women's Running magazine debuts its first issue in January, becoming the first-ever women-specific running magazine. The magazine holds the first Women's Half Marathon that November, a race that will become a part of the largest women's half marathon series in the nation.


American marathon superstars Shalane Flanagan, Desiree Davila and Kara Goucher win the top spots at the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon with record times. They are only three of the predicted seven million female finishers who will compete in road races across the nation in this year alone.

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Jessica Sebor is Florida-based writer, runner and the editor in chief of Women's Running magazine.

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