2022 Boston Marathon celebrates 50th anniversary of official women’s division

Athletes pose for a photo to celebrate the first women's official Boston Marathon in 1972
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The 2022 Boston Marathon will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the official inclusion of women in the race, where American Nina Kuscsik emerged the winner of the eight-woman field with a time of 3:10:26.

But female athletes’ road to inclusion was no smooth sailing.

In 1966, Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb took advantage of a loophole in the Boston Athletic Association’s entry criteria, which did not list any gender restrictions, and became the first woman to run the full Boston Marathon. She ran without an official race number for three years (1966-68), famously hiding in the bushes near the start until the race began.

Bobbi Gibb Runs The Boston Marathon
APRIL 19, 1967: Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb runs in the Boston Marathon. (Photo by Paul Connell/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

The following year, Kathrine Switzer signed her entry form as “K. V. Switzer” and was issued a bib number. In an infamous incident documented by photographers, B.A.A. officials tried unsuccessfully to physically remove her from the race, citing that the Amateur Athletics Union (A.A.U.) had not yet formally allowed women in long distance running.

The A.A.U. permitted women to enter its sanctioned marathons in the fall of 1971, and eight women took to the start line in the 1972 Boston Marathon. Kuscsik became the first official champion, and all eight women finished the race.

Kathrine Switzer in the Boston marathon as officials try to force her off the course
BOSTON, MA – APRIL 19, 1967: Kathrine Switzer (bib 261), was spotted early in the Boston Marathon by Jock Semple, center right, who tried to rip the number off her shirt and remove her from the race. Switzer’s then boyfriend Tom Miller intervened, allowing Switzer to make her getaway to become the first woman to “officially” run the Boston Marathon on April 19, 1967. (Paul Connell/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

“The things people would say about why we should not be able to run long distance was crazy,” recalls Valerie Rogosheske, one of the original eight finishers in 1972. “Like, our uteruses would fall out, and we wouldn’t be able to have children, or it was just not good for our health in general. I think they were afraid that the endurance aspect of it would cause us to faint or something. I’m not sure, but it was it was pretty crazy.”

1972 Boston Marathon Original Eight Women Finishers: 

  1. Nina Kuscsik, New York (3:10:26)
  2. Elaine Pedersen, California (3:20:25)
  3. Kathrine Switzer, New York (3:29:51)
  4. Pat Barrett, New Jersey (3:40:29)
  5. Sara Mae Berman, Massachusetts (3:48:30)
  6. Valerie Rogosheske, Wirginia (4:29:32)
  7. Ginny Collins, Massachusetts (4:48:32)
  8. Frances Morrison, Texas (5:07:00)

Now 75, Rogosheske will join the 14,000 women participants in this year’s race, including daughters Abigail and Allie. The Minnesota native sat down with NBC Sports ahead of her appearance Monday, where she’ll be part of BAA’s honorary women’s team that will commemorate the original eight finishers.

“If I’m totally honest, when I found out that we were going to be legal, there was just a teeny part of me that was disappointed because I was so focused on being a part of the movement, and jumping out of the bushes,” said Rogosheske, who placed in the top 10 in Boston three times, taking sixth in 1972 (4:29:32), ninth in 1973 (3:51:12) and eighth in 1974 (3:09:38). “But what a wonderful thing it was to be legal.”

She clearly remembers seeing her fellow female competitors at the start line in 1972, and while they didn’t verbalize it at the time, Rogosheske said they recognized the gravity of the moment.

Women to Run Full Boston Marathon
1972 Boston Marathon: For the first time in the history, women were allowed to enter the Boston Marathon. The runners are (l-r) Nina Kuscsik, Kathrine Switzer, Elaine Pedersen, Ginny Collins, Pat Barrett Shore, Frances Morrison, and Sara Mae Berman. Not pictured: Valerie Rogosheske. (Photo via Getty Images)

“There was this feeling of we all have to finish,” she said. “Nobody drops out. Nobody even walks. I don’t think we actually said that, but I think that was the feeling that was in the air.

“It really is something to think of the growth in opportunity for women in these last 50 years,” added Rogosheske.

“I was a physical education major when women could not do sports. I had no teams to be on, not only in high school but in college either. And to see how opportunities have opened up, to see this whole opportunity unfold for so many women to embrace that physical side of themselves is wonderful.”

Boston’s PHF women’s hockey franchise, the Boston Pride, will serve as ceremonial grand marshals for the event, with Massachusetts natives Jillian Dempsey and Mary Parker serving as the honorary grand marshals. Rogosheske and running icon Marilyn Bevans will be among the honorary starters.

MORE BOSTON MARATHON COVERAGE: Thrilling women’s race determined in final seconds

History of women in the Boston Marathon: 

The first Boston Marathon, originally called the American Marathon, was held April 19, 1897. However, it took another 69 years before the first woman, Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb, competed, and it wasn’t until 1972 that women were officially allowed to run the race. Here are some milestone dates leading up to the 126th Boston Marathon and 50th anniversary of women’s inclusion:

  • Tuesday, April 19, 1966: Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, where she unofficially joined the starting field shortly after the gun was fired and finished in 3:21:40 to place 126th overall. Gibb claimed the “unofficial” title again in 1967 and 1968.
  • Wednesday, April 19, 1967: Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to receive a number in the Boston Marathon after signing her entry form “K. V. Switzer.” Despite repeated attempts by race official Jock Semple to rip off her bib number and eject her from the race, Switzer estimates she finished in 4:20:00.
  • Monday, April 17, 1972: Women were allowed to officially run the Boston Marathon, with American Nina Kuscsik winning the eight-person race in 3:10:26.
Boston Marathon 1972
APRIL 17, 1972: The first women’s Boston Marathon winner, Nina Kuscsik. (Photo by Joseph Dennehy/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
  • Monday, April 21, 1975: Liane Winter of West Germany established a women’s world best of 2:42:24.
  • Monday, April 18, 1983: Joan Benoit won her second Boston Marathon in a world best time of 2:22:43. She won the inaugural women’s Olympic Marathon the following year, becoming the first person to win the Boston and Olympic marathons.
1983 Boston Marathon Winner Joan Benoit
APRIL 18, 1983: Women’s winner Joan Benoit crosses finish line of the Boston Marathon, (Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
  • Monday, April 21, 1986: Prize money is awarded for the first time, thanks to the backing of Boston-based John Hancock, and Norway’s Ingrid Kristiansen took the title in 2:24:55. She also won a new car and $35,000 in prize and bonus money.
  • Monday, April 16, 1990: Jean Driscoll, from Champaign, Ill., won her first of seven consecutive wheelchair division races.
Boston Marathon 1995
APRIL 17, 1995: Jean Driscoll as she crests Heartbreak Hill on way to women’s wheelchair victory in the 1995 Boston Marathon. (Photo by John Blanding/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
  • Monday, April 15, 1996: The historic 100th running of the Boston Marathon featured Germany’s Uta Pippig, who overcame a 30-second deficit and severe dehydration to become the first woman of the official era to win the race three consecutive years.
  • Monday, April 21, 1997: Ethiopia’s Fatuma Roba became the fourth person to win the Boston and Olympic Marathons, and the first African woman to win the Boston Marathon. Two years later, she would become the second woman of the official era to win the race three consecutive years.
  • Monday, April 17, 2000: Jean Driscoll won an unprecedented eighth title in the wheelchair division, moving her past legendary Hall of Famer Clarence H. DeMar for most all-time victories at Boston. Catherine Ndereba became the first Kenyan woman to win the Boston Marathon.
  • Monday, April 15, 2002: Two records were set in the women’s race when Margaret Okayo of Kenya dethroned two-time defending champion Catherine Ndereba in 2:20:43, and Russia’s Firaya Sultanova-Zhdanova broke the 14-year-old masters record with her 2:27:58 victory.
  • Monday, April 19, 2004: To better showcase the women’s elite field, the B.A.A. implemented a separate start for the top female runners, with 35 women beginning at 11:31 a.m. (29 minutes before the rest of the field and the traditional noon start).
  • Monday, April 18, 2005: Catherine Ndereba became the first four-time winner of the women’s open division.
  • Monday, April 18, 2016: Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Bobbi Gibbs’ 1966 run, officials announce that years between 1966 and 1971 would no longer be known as the “Unofficial Era,” but rather the “Pioneer Era” going forward. As a symbol of appreciation, women’s winner Atsede Baysa gifted her Champion’s Trophy to Gibb, who served as the 2016 Boston Marathon Grand Marshal.
  • Monday, April 16, 2018: Desiree Linden becomes the first American in 33 years, since Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach in 1985, to win the women’s category at the Boston Marathon.

ALSO FROM ON HER TURF: World’s top women marathoners set for showdown at 126th Boston Marathon

More on the 2022 Boston Marathon Honorary Women’s Team:

  • Mary Wacera Ngugi: The Kenyan standout, who finished third in the 2021 Boston Marathon, has been using her platform to spread awareness against domestic violence. Upon the death last October of fellow Kenyan runner and two-time world championship medalist Agnes Tirop, who was stabbed to death by her estranged husband, Ngugi helped establish the Women’s Athletic Alliance to fight against domestic abuse and inequalities, particularly for female athletes in East Africa.
  • Manuela Schär: The Swiss standout has earned three Boston Marathon titles as well as the last three Abbott World Marathon Majors series titles. At the 2020 Paralympics, Schär earned five medals (including two gold) in distances from the 400 meters to marathon. She currently holds the marathon world record and Boston course record holder (1:28:17) and is the only women’s wheelchair athlete ever to break the 1:30 barrier.
  • Melissa Stockwell: In April 2004 – one month after being deployed to Iraq as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army’s transportation corps – Stockwell became the first female American soldier to lose a limb in active combat after her vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. Four years later, she became the first Iraq War veteran to qualify for the Paralympic Games, competing in swimming at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics. She’s since competed in the Paralympic debut of triathlon in 2016 (winning bronze) and the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
  • Sarah Fuller: Texas native Fuller made history in 2020 as the first woman to suit up for a SEC football game while at Vanderbilt University, where she played soccer. Two weeks later, she made history again as the first woman to play in – and score – in a Power 5 football game, kicking a pair of extra points for the Commodores. She’s currently pursuing her graduate degree at the University of North Texas, where she’s also goalkeeper for the soccer team, and this summer she’ll play for Minnesota Aurora FC of the USL W League.
  • Kristine Lilly: The two-time World Cup champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist will make her second start in the Boston Marathon and first in 10 years. Lilly, who played professionally for the Boston Breakers from 2001-03 and 2009-10, was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 2012 and U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame in 2014.
  • Jocelyn Rivas: As a child in El Salvador, Rivas was told she would likely not be able to walk. But in November 2021, she completed her 100th marathon at the age of 24, making her the Guinness World Record holder for the youngest woman to run 100 marathons and the world record holder for youngest Latina to ever do so. As a DACA recipient who immigrated to the United States when she was 6, Rivas takes aim at her 112th marathon with the hope of using her platform to inspire other Dreamers.
  • Verna Volker: Volker is a member of the Navajo Nation and founder of Native Women Running, which seeks to build and nurture a community that features and encourages Native women runners. The mother of four also is part of the leadership team for the Running Industry Diversity Coalition, which focuses on improving inclusion, visibility and access for Black, Indigenous and people of color within the sport.

Kaillie Humphries elevates another fresh U.S. face to podium status in two-woman bobsled World Cup

Kaillie Humphries of USA, Kaysha Love of USA in action at the 2 women's bobsleigh during Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games.
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PARK CITY, UTAH – Kaillie Humphries extended her podium streak on Saturday at the IBSF World Cup, where she and U.S. push athlete Jasmine Jones finished third in the two-woman bobsled.

The third-place finish in Park City marked the sixth podium for Humphries at the Park City track, which hosted the 2002 Olympics, and was Jones’ career-first World Cup podium in just her second World Cup start.

“This is our first race together, so really excited about that,” said the 37-year-old Humphries, considered the greatest female driver in history with three Olympic gold medals (2010, 2014 and 2022) and five world championships titles. She earned her 29th career World Cup win on Friday in Park City in the women’s monobob.

“Definitely a work in progress. … The runs weren’t perfect, but I’m really happy with our starts, happy with our drives minus a few little mistakes. It’s a good starting point, and we’ll look to grow from here.”

Humphries and Jones finished with a combined, two-run time of 1:37.69, 0.32 behind winners Kim Kalicki and brakewoman Leonie Fiebig of Germany at 1:37.37. Fellow Germans Laura Nolte and Lena Neunecker were second at 0.23 back.

Kalicki and Fiebig broke a 16-year-old track record with their first run, laying down a time of 48.60 seconds and besting the time set by Americans Shauna Rohbock and Valerie Fleming – the 2006 Olympic silver medalists – in December 2006 (48.73). It also marked the second straight victory for Kalicki, who’s won five career World Cup titles including last week’s two-woman bobsled race in Whistler, Canada.

“I was hoping Kaillie would get [the record],” said Rohbock, who is now a U.S. team coach and was on hand to see her record fall. “That first run there, she had that little skid in the bottom, so that didn’t help, but Kailee’s always putting up a great performance. And Jasmine, another great brakewoman, so we’re really lucky that we have that depth.”

For Team USA, it marked the second straight week that a fresh face earned her first podium finish while competing with Humphries. Last week in Whistler, push athlete Emily Renna and Humphries placed third in Renna’s first-ever World Cup appearance.

MORE IBSF WORLD CUP COVERAGE: Kelly Curtis notches career-best finish with top five at Park City skeleton World Cup

“Being able to race with her was really special,” said the 29-year-old Renna, who was a college track athlete at University of Rhode Island. “It’s really nice to be around seasoned veterans. It definitely makes you feel better in the back sled with you when you’ve got a good pilot who knows the track.”

Renna finished in eighth place in Park City with 12-year U.S. team veteran and pilot Nicole Vogt (1:39.04). Vogt partnered with Jones in her first World Cup last week where they finished seventh in Whistler, 1.33 seconds behind winners Kalicki and German teammate Anabel Galander.

“To have an opportunity to be with Kaillie in my World Cup debut – it’s exciting,” said the 26-year-old Jones, who was a collegiate track and field athlete at Eastern Michigan. “I just feel like I have so much more in the tank to give, and I’m just hungry for it.”

Jones is particularly gratified with her performance after returning full-time to bobsled less than 18 months ago following the birth of her daughter, Jade Quinn Jones, in February 2021. The Greensburg, Pa., native returned to training just five months postpartum, having sat out the 2020-21 season. She competed on the North American Cup last year, finishing the season with a win (the third NA Cup title of her career) and a third place in Lake Placid.

“I’m thankful,” said Jones. “Opportunity is the main thing, and I just feel blessed to have my first World Cup podium. I’m screaming on the inside. I may not show it, but I am jumping for joy because I’m just that excited and happy to have this accomplishment.”

She admits, however, it’s not always easy to compete balance a full-time competitive career with being a mom.

“Sometimes it’s a struggle being away from my daughter,” said Jones, whose mom takes care of Jade while she travels. “I try to get my facetimes in every night and just know that when I’m pushing, I’m doing it for her. Hopefully sometime in the future I’ll have her around on the sidelines cheering me on, and that’s my main motivation – that this is for her.”

The BMW IBSF World Cup continues its North American swing Dec. 16-18 in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Kaillie Humphries faces IVF journey head on — and collects monobob World Cup win along the way

Gold medallist Kaillie Humphries of Team United States celebrates during the Women's Monobob.
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PARK CITY, UTAH — Kaillie Humphries knew the quest to start a family would impact her 2022-23 season, but it’s certainly not slowing down Team USA’s reigning monobob Olympic gold medalist, who captured her first World Cup title in the discipline on Friday.

The 37-year-old Humphries, considered the greatest female driver in history with three Olympic golds (2010, 2014 and 2022) and five world championships, earned her 29th career World Cup win and her third victory on the Park City track, where she won the two-woman bobsled competitions in 2012 and 2016. Competing in Utah – as well as North American World Cup stops in Whistler last week and in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Dec. 17-18 – is one of the reasons that Humphries pushed pause on her journey to motherhood.

“I’m excited,” Humphries said following the win, marking her second straight podium in monobob following a third-place finish last week in Whistler. “I was excited for this year before it started. It’s part and parcel of why my husband and I delayed the IVF process and starting a family this season. To be able to be back in North America and have the first half of the season here – it’s been a long time since we’ve had that, so I wanted to be able to compete and it feels awesome.”

That’s not to say the leadup to this season has been without its share of hiccups. In fact, Humphries admits that following the Beijing Olympics, she had hoped to get pregnant immediately, but she and husband Travis Armbruster had to pivot when a diagnosis of stage 4 endometriosis made it clear that in vitro fertilization would be the best path for pregnancy.

“Right after the Olympics, I was like, ‘We’re going to get pregnant; it’s gonna be all good,’” she said. “I thought, my body has always performed, and it wasn’t going to be an issue. Fast forward to I find out we have to do IVF. We do the first egg retrieval, and it doesn’t go as well as I had hoped — which anybody that’s done this process knows, you can’t control any aspect of it. And so having to do a second round of egg retrieval, …it pushed everything back.”

What’s more, it brought Humphries’ training to a standstill at times, when she would have to limit all physical activity during the three-week period surrounding the egg-retrieval process.

“It impacted my training coming into this year a lot,” she says, “but I also think it definitely reset my hormones, which turns out I needed. I don’t think was a bad thing. I knew coming into this year, I wasn’t going to be in the same shape as I have been in the past, and I had to make peace with that. I know that each and every race I’m racing myself into shape, and each race is a preparation for January’s World Championships.”

Humphries also chose to share her IVF journey publicly, and she’s documented every step of the way, believing that her story makes it less scary not just for her but also for other women and female athletes who might be facing the same thing.

MORE IBSF WORLD CUP: Kelly Curtis notches career-best finish with top five at Park City skeleton World Cup

“My husband and I weren’t sure that we wanted to share it at first,” she admits. “But I felt it was important just to showcase this. I have nothing to hide. And as much as there are parts of me certain days when I think, ‘What’s wrong with me?’ At the end of the day, I know I’m not alone in this.

“It’s important, I do have a voice, and I want other people to know, as an Olympic gold medalist, if it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody. Infertility exists in the female body, and it’s important that I talk about it in my journey and hopefully that’s inspired other people.”

She says she’s received an outpouring of support, which has been particularly gratifying as she continues to put a painful breakup with Team Canada in the rearview mirror. Humphries, who was born in Calgary, competed for Canada for 16 years, winning three Olympic medals including a bronze in Pyeongchang in 2018. But the relationship came to an abrupt end later just five months after the 2018 Games, after Humphries alleged emotional and mental harassment by a former coach.

Winning a gold medal in Beijing just two months after her U.S. citizenship was finalized proved to be turning point for Humphries, who commemorated the milestone with two new tattoos. She first added the date of her win – Feb. 14, 2022 – to the back of her left hand and a larger rose and skull illustration to the back of her right knee and calf, all of which commemorate her triumph over that darker period.

“The skull represents a rebirth and a growth, overcoming challenges and/or obstacles and turning something negative into something positive,” explains Humphries, who says she chose the rose because it’s the national flower of the U.S. as well as a symbol of love won or lost. She notes that she has “an actual Olympic one” planned for August 2024, which is when her favorite tattoo artist is next available.

Humphries has also found the silver lining in her IVF journey, as the competition season has been a welcome break from some of the self-imposed pressure.

“By pushing pause for four or five months and competing, it allowed me mentally to know that we can go into all of next summer and all winter focusing on just doing the actual embryo transfers and having a good pregnancy,” she says. “I don’t feel stressed to try and get pregnant right away. I felt like I was becoming competitive with myself, wondering why isn’t this working? Why can’t I do this? I tried to control too many things, and I started to get really frustrated. Mentally, it was hard. So, by pushing pause, going back to what I know — which is the sport, which is what I love – it’s allowed me to control a little bit of my future.”

Humphries’ season continues Saturday as the IBSF World Cup from Park City concludes with the two-woman bobsleigh.