Lickety Split!
January 11, 2017 9:20 PM   Subscribe

How a 13-year-old Canadian girl ran the world’s fastest marathon. Imagine a record-setting distance runner. This marathoner you envisage should be a history maker. The fastest in the world, by a long margin. Concentrate. Got a picture in mind?
posted by Literaryhero (19 comments total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks, OP! What a great story!
posted by Bella Donna at 9:59 PM on January 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

posted by brambleboy at 10:03 PM on January 11, 2017

Hells ya - great damn story and I love how she's still going!
posted by drewbage1847 at 10:13 PM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Great story, and I'm not sure what it says about me or our society that I'm not the least surprised by the reaction.

But I do have to question the accuracy of one statement, "May 6, 1967 was almost 50 year ago". I was born a few days later and there is no way in the world that was 50 years ago, I refuse to accept it. Have to run, so to speak, my knees want a word about something.
posted by maxwelton at 10:19 PM on January 11, 2017 [10 favorites]

Now this post is why I love this place.

So much to gush over here.

Best paragraph has to be this, however ...

That was a complete shmozzle, too. She signed up as "K.V. Switzer" to escape the attention of Jock Semple, the rabid Boston-is-for-men-only organizer. When Semple learned, too late, that there was a female runner in his race, he ambushed Switzer, grabbed her jersey, and tried to physically throw her off the course. At which point, Switzer’s 235-pound boyfriend, running mate, and national hammer thrower, tackled Semple and left him a groaning heap of laundry on the road, while she dashed for the finish).

posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 11:10 PM on January 11, 2017 [11 favorites]

I was ready to ridicule Jock Semple for everything from his name to his backwards attitudes, but a quick googling told me that he eventually came around, and Switzer apparently forgave him.
posted by Harald74 at 11:21 PM on January 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

What an amazing story... The parents style... So great: they see an interest, and find a way to support it, then at the race mom's like "get in there". She smashes a world record and it's off to the cottage like no big deal.
Yay for mom and dad, I'd say. She absolutely deserved more credit and fanfare, but there's also something wonderful about keeping it all low key but super supportive at home. Today I feel like exceptional athletes get a bunch of fanfare...But then they also have to manage a public relations plan and constant spotlight, ugh.
posted by chapps at 11:43 PM on January 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

Great article. What an incredible athlete. Can only imagine how good she would have been with modern coaching and knowledge - like the article says, someone who can run 5:15 miles should be capable of running a marathon in less than 3:15 (this calculator suggests anywhere between 2:47 and 2:58).

I was ready to ridicule Jock Semple for everything from his name to his backwards attitudes, but a quick googling told me that he eventually came around, and Switzer apparently forgave him.

She did, yes. I'm reading her (fantastic) book Marathon Woman at the moment, and she's quite magnanimous towards him. And the boyfriend who intervened when Semple tried to throw her out of the race isn't exactly a hero either, AskMe would use words like manchild and DTFMA.

And I mean Semple wasn't exactly out-of-step with contemporary US athletic thought - women weren't officially allowed to run races longer than a mile and a half at the time. The longest Olympics race for women was the 800m, and that had only been added in 1960 (after being removed in the 20s). Switzer (and her boyfriend and coach) got expelled from the Amateur Athletic Union after they ran in Boston. Not defending Semple, but he wasn't any more regressive than anyone else.
posted by Pink Frost at 1:13 AM on January 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

What an incredible and unknown story. And it really was fantastic how supportive her parents were, and in the 1960's, even more so!
posted by Pocahontas at 4:36 AM on January 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

Concentrate. Got a picture in mind?
Yes, I haven't read the article yet, but for some reason I'm picturing a 13-year-old Canadian girl.
posted by Wolfdog at 6:16 AM on January 12, 2017 [7 favorites]

CBC did it, not me! I just copied what they wrote!
posted by Literaryhero at 6:45 AM on January 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

This is great. I have never heard of this, and I thought I'd read all the good marathon stories.

Marathons are so long, intense and destructive that you really only get a couple shots at a PR, or a record-breaker, no matter how good you are. Everything has to line up just right.
posted by lagomorphius at 6:53 AM on January 12, 2017

But wait! There's more.

According to Karl Lennartz , the time was noted but "the public was less impressed by the fact, that a young woman ran the Marathon, rather than that a 15 year old teenager was able to run such a time, which meant further a new world best time. Journalists doubted the correctness of this performance and enquired Ernst van Aaken, if women and especially teenagers were able to endure so much. When van Aaken foretold much better times he was punished with mockery and derision.

To produce evidence to counter his thesis van Aaken asked two female runners, 27 year old Anni Pede, mother of two children and middle distance runner , and 19 year old Monika Boers, to participate in a marathon race in his hometown Waldniel..."

Four months later, Ms Pede had bested the Canadian record by nearly eight seconds.

Women did not have a marathon event in the Olympics until 1984.

*PDF file here
posted by BWA at 7:32 AM on January 12, 2017 [4 favorites]

That's a great story.
posted by ph00dz at 7:53 AM on January 12, 2017

I love this story, and I love that Moe is still racing.
posted by suelac at 8:57 AM on January 12, 2017

Thanks for sharing - wonderful story. I'm about her age, and I marvel how women's sports has changed in my lifetime.
posted by sixpack at 10:53 AM on January 12, 2017

> She is the only Canadian ever to own a marathon world best

There was clearly some skulduggery done to Tom Longboat at the 1908 London Olympics.
posted by scruss at 11:47 AM on January 12, 2017

I have really mixed feelings about this article. I'm a woman and a runner and a sucker for "giving retrospective credit to women who didn't get it when they did something amazing" and she definitely did something amazing.

But I also work in athletics, and this:

"It is hard to overstate how different the response to her run would be in today’s world, where tens of thousands of people — more women than men — show up for weekend marathons."

and this:

"That 'damage in future years' was surely dog-whistle code for 'fragile lady parts'."

Are just nonsense. If you put a 13 year old girl OR boy in for a marathon today you would also be censured for exactly the same things.

UK Athletics rules for off-track running say you should be 16 before you compete in a 10K (i.e. One quarter of a marathon). Can some kids do more? Obviously. But others are not yet strong enough and could do permanent damage by over-training.

Clearly this was well-within Mancuso's abilities - she was exceptional and deserves recognition for that - but to suggest that people's concerns about a 13-year-old running a marathon were ludicrous and outdated is flat-out wrong.
posted by penguin pie at 2:22 AM on January 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Thanks, I enjoyed reading that.

penguin pie, I imagine any concern expressed was two-fold. Both for her age and for her gender. I agree that current practice is to limit longer races for younger people, although there are always exceptions. The limits on womens' distances were in part due to concern about reproductive health. There is a certain amount of joking in the women's distance running community about marathon courses being littered with discarded uteruses, so I can see that creeping into the writer's point of view.
posted by TORunner at 4:22 AM on January 13, 2017

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