I happened to learn of Merry Lepper’s story a few days ago and was intrigued.

She’s pictured at left in the photograph running with her training partner.

In 1963 women were barred from competing in marathons, as it was believed their bodies were not capable of the exertion.

Enter Merry Lepper. Disguised and hiding in the bushes, she managed to jump in at the starting gun and complete the marathon – the first American woman to do so (apparently she completed the race having been fueled by a single Baby Ruth candy bar – a curious detail).

A few years later in 1967, Kathrine Switzer becomes the first woman to officially enter a marathon (the Boston Marathon). With one catch – she entered using her initials only.

When race officials realized she was a woman, they tried to physically push her off the course.

This action of trying to physically push Kathrine off the course grabs my attention. If women were truly barred “for their own good” (as the argument often goes), what really would have been the point of such extreme physical exertion (which could cause harm) to remove her from the route? Seems a bit counter intuitive, no – and a bit too extreme when acting on the best interest of another.

Obviously we have a classic case of an individual threatening the status quo. But, Kudos (or candy bars?) to both of them for defying assumptions and expectations in truly bad-ass ways.

Both stories make me smile a little bit. Merry and Kathrine remind me of how far we’ve come and how far we have left to go.

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