Heroes of Running

It was a dark, wet run this morning. When I stepped out onto the front porch, I stopped, turned around, and went back inside. I resisted the urge to climb back into my warm cozy bed, but zipped up my neon yellow rain jacket and went out into the rain.

In an effort to distract myself from the actual run; I created a list of my personal running heroes. (We’ve developed a hero culture in which celebrities get a TON of attention. So I’m going to choose heroes who have inspired me to be a better runner.)

Here, in no particular order, are my running heroes:

Kathrine Switzer – Perhaps best known for the iconic photograph of Josh Semple trying to force her off the Boston Marathon course, Kathrine Switzer has worked tirelessly to create and promote women’s running and marathons in particular.

k switzer

Her book, Marathon Woman, lives on my shelf where it’s easily accessible for days when I need a little encouragement.

Grete Waitz – Was a Norwegian marathon runner and former world record holder. In 1979, she became the first woman in history to run the marathon in under two and a half hours. Her example led me to add wall sits to my routine and so I credit her with helping me avoid knee problems all these years.

(BTW, I’ve just learned that it’s very difficult to get a selfie showing wall sits. Sorry no illustration of this VERY GOOD exercise today.)

Abbe Bikila – Was my first running hero. I read his story when I was new to running and decided that if he could win an Olympic marathon while running barefoot, I could suck it up and do what I needed to do.

Paavo Nurmi – Was a Finnish runner who dominated distance running in the early 20th century. He worked HARD to get achieve his goals and was another early influence on my running. He didn’t look like a “typical” runner. (If there is such a thing.) I learned that it doesn’t matter what you LOOK like as a runner, it matters what you do.

We can’t all look like Kenyans, after all.

Joy Johnson – Is a recent addition to my list of heroes. She died last summer after finishing the NY Marathon. At age 86. My newest role model, I want to be just like her when I grow up – running to the end.


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