In 1928, in the first year of women’s track and field events being allowed into the Olympics, 3 women collapsed in the 800 metres. Because of this it was felt by the authorities it was not safe for women to participate in events greater than 200 metres.
As a consequence, up until 1960, the longest distance for female runners at the Olympic Games was 200 metres. The idea of women running a marathon was at best frowned upon, but at worst was deemed to be medically dangerous. Women were placed in a catch 22 situation. They weren’t allowed to run, because it was thought marathon running was not safe. But, because they couldn’t run, they were unable to prove they could.
However, a few intrepid female runners ignored conventional wisdom to show that women could run respectable marathon times.
One of the early women marathon pioneers was Roberta Gibb; she sneaked into the Boston Marathon in 1966 and finished with an unofficial time of 3:21.25. When she entered a year later, officials forced her off course so she couldn’t get an official time.
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