ON THIS DATE in 1969, thirteen-year-old Maureen Wilton Manuso set the women’s world record in her first marathon. A thirteen-year-old smashing a world record would be big news today, but the four-foot-ten-inch, 80-pound Canadian heard more tsk-tsk! than hear-hear! At the time, many believed that extensive female running led to reproductive-system damage. “I remember one article saying, ‘How awful for this thirteen-year-old kid,’” Mancuso said in 2011. “‘She’s never going to be able to have children.’”
Later the mother of two healthy children, Mancuso recorded a time of 3:15.23 on a Toronto, Canada, track. Also competing was Kathrine Switzer, a women’s distance-running pioneer who became a good friend of Mancuso’s. Two years earlier, Switzer had entered the male-only Boston Marathon under the name K.V. Switzer, becoming the first woman to officially enter and complete the event despite an attack by a marathon official who yelled, “Get the hell out of my race!”
Today, the record women’s marathon time is nearly an hour faster than Mancuso’s mark, partly because girls and women have been encouraged to run. The Boston Marathon allowed women to compete in 1972, and the 26.2- mile run became an Olympic sport for women in 1984.