In November of 1976, I had my second child. My husband, Tom, had started distance running during my pregnancy, and ran the Maryland Marathon in December, qualifying for the Boston Marathon. He loved it and urged me to try it, so I started trying to run in the early part of 1977. I thought it would help me to lose weight. It was difficult at first, since I was just trying to run until I had to stop. Tom and his friends ran the whole time they were out, never stopping to walk. So, that was what I was trying to do. I didn’t know that it would have been a good idea to take walking breaks, in order to gradually gain endurance. I’d bring my daughters, ages six months and three, to the races to support Tom. I noticed two things: 1. He was having a lot of fun with fellow runners at the events while I was handling child care; and 2. Among the many men running were a handful of women who looked like they were having fun! So, I decided to join in! Racing was a completely new experience for me. When I was in high school, girls were not allowed to run. I did not know any women in my town that ran; and running, for women, was widely frowned upon. So, once I got myself up to speed, all my running partners were men.
One of Tom’s buddies brought me a magazine article about Miki Gorman, a terrific female runner who had won Boston twice since women had been allowed to enter (1972). He told us that there was going to be a 10K race for just women in Boston in October. I was intrigued, since there were so few female runners. He and Tom brought me to that first Bonne Bell Mini Marathon for Women. I was shocked to find myself in a sea of women running! There were 2,300 of us! What an empowering experience!
The twentieth race in October of 1996 holds the fondest memories of this race for me. I was thrilled to be doing my twentieth consecutive, but even more thrilled that both my daughters, Amy Lillis and Crissy Lippman joined me that day! As I crossed the finish line, there they were, my cherished daughters. These were the charming babies I had waved to as Tom drove me off to my first big road race, the sweet girls who listened to my stories of glory after each race, the courageous athletes who raced on winged feet bringing home trophies and medals and stories of their own, the loving children who called from college to wish me luck. I thought to myself: “And now, they are here to share it all with me. And now, they know the joy. I am complete!”
I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without running. Stepping to the starting line introduced me to a whole new life, which I’ve shared with my husband. Obviously, improving fitness has allowed us to lead a much healthier life. It has given me the strength and the desire to push my limits. There are many activities I’ve done that I’d thought were beyond my capacity. I found out I was wrong. Through running, I became an obstacle course racer and triathlete, as well. Running led me to explore my limits, and to realize that which is difficult is doable with adequate preparation and determination. Beyond the physical benefits have also been emotional and social benefits. Our circle of friends grew exponentially. Our friends are runners, too, and have become our second family. Our running club, Merrimack Valley Striders, has been an integral part of our lives for more than forty years.
The Boston 10K for Women has been a touchstone for me for so many years! I will be so glad to see my friends, the other Legacy Runners. I am also looking forward to seeing Dusty Rhodes and her wonderful Conventures team who have showered us with kindness all these years. I can’t wait to be at the Boston Common on Columbus Day, once again, with my family and running friends! I am honored to be, in some small way, considered an inspiration to other women who are discovering the joy of running.