There is an expression in marathon running that you go through a lifetime of experience every time you run one. It’s absolutely true, because the marathon is not just something you can go out and do; you need to train for it. It takes a long time to be able to run for 26 miles, 385 yards, and that means discipline and sacrifice. Then, when you run it, it puts you face to face with yourself, your capability, your belief, your self-doubt and your fears; it takes everything you have.
But when you’ve finished it, you know you can do anything. You’re powerful. You’re fearless. You’re older and a lot wiser. Especially when things happen in the race that are unpredictable-bad weather, a sore knee, an upset stomach. You cope; you forge on, because the whole purpose is to finish.
In 1967, the race director of the Boston Marathon tried to rip off my bib numbers and throw me out of the race because I was a woman in what was then a men’s only race. My boyfriend knocked the official away from me, and I made the tough decision to finish the race no matter what. In the course of the race, I slowly grew up, realized the official was just a man of his time, and that it was my responsibility not only to finish to show the world women could run, should be allowed to, but also to create opportunities for them. That run changed my life as well as history, as creating those opportunities to run has empowered millions of women’s lives in every respect. They know they can do anything and they deserve the opportunity to try.
Mine is just one of many stories about the Boston Marathon. Over the next 46 years that I have been at the race– eight times as a finisher and the rest as a TV commentator at the finish line–I have witnessed the most astonishing feats of human capability, endurance and emotion.