There is a long tradition of women running as a form of protest.
By Erin Schumaker
In the wake of President Donald Trump’s electoral victory, Alison Désir, the founder of a community running organization in New York City called Harlem Run, turned her frustration into political action.
Désir’s remedy: a four-woman, 240-mile relay, beginning in Harlem, New York City, on Jan. 16 and ending in Washington, D.C., on the day of Trump’s inauguration. The race was designed to raise money and awareness for Planned Parenthood in honor of women. As of Jan. 20, the (Four Women) Run For ALL Women GoFundMe page had raised more than $89,000 ― more than twice their goal ― to give women access to cancer screenings and preventive care, even if Planned Parenthood is defunded this year.
Though Four Women are running specifically in opposition to Trump, they are participating in a legacy of people who run in protest or with advocacy in mind.
Protest and advocacy runs range from sponsored marathons to singular, public displays of support, such as Terry Fox’s famous 143-day marathon for cancer research or the recent 2,000-mile relay run from North Dakota to Washington, D.C. to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Désir’s activist relay is part of a larger tradition of running as a form of protest. Women in particular have a history of using long-distance running to call attention to their fight for equality. In fact, just the act of running while female used to be protest enough.
When Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb’s 1966 Boston Marathon entry was rejected by the Boston Athletic Association because women were neither allowed to participate, nor “physiologically able” to compete, she ignored her denial letter.
Instead, she dressed in her brother’s clothing, hid her hair under a hooded sweatshirt, and joined the race without a bib.
Gibb would go on to prove her detractors at the Boston Athletic Association wrong. She finished in the top third of the pack.
“Last week a tidy-looking and pretty 23-year-old blonde [had] a performance that should do much to phase out the old-fashioned notion that a female is too frail for distance running,” Sports Illustrated wrote at the time.
Her protest run also inspired other women to participate, most memorably at that time 20-year-old Kathy Switzer, who officially entered the Boston marathon under the non-gender specific name “K.V. Switzer” the following year. Remarkable though her physical achievement was, race director Jock Semple tried to tackle Switzer and toss her from the race for entering under false pretenses (as seen in the photo above snapped during the assault). As Switzer writes on her website: