Euro Boom in Women’s Running by Kathrine Switzer

The Euro Boom in Women‰Ûªs
Running

 

by Kathrine Switzer

 

The start line was less than
a mile walk straight up Avenue 17 Juni, in the same prestigious location as the
BMW Berlin Marathon.  ‰ÛÏYou don‰Ûªt
need to be there until three,‰Û noted race director Mark Milde, ‰ÛÏbut after that
you‰Ûªll be very busy since we have eight different race starts, finish tape
holdings and awards ceremonies. Your 10K race is at 6 PM and the prize giving
will be at 7.‰Û Then he hesitated, and continued apologetically. ‰ÛÏWill you be
done running in time to do the awards at 7?‰Û
 
Just barely! I thought. And
then, my heavens, there are so many women in this event they need to organize
eight separate races!
 
I was in Berlin on May 12
for the 29th Avon Frauenlauf, * the first of two of Europe‰Ûªs most prestigious
women‰Ûªs road races I would run; the other being the 25th Austrian Women‰Ûªs Run
in Vienna. While the overall reason for my being in Europe was to celebrate the
global 40th anniversary of women being ‰ÛÏallowed‰Û to run at all, I was curious
why at last women‰Ûªs running in certain European locations is exploding. In some
places, race numbers are far greater than most American women‰Ûªs runs. 
 
As I left my hotel at 2PM
and walked up the avenue, through the beautiful Tiergarten and past the Victory
Column, the crowd and noise level began to rise. Gradually, the sound became
pulsing music, accompanied by a profusion of color and the combined smell of
grilling wurst, fresh-poured beer and perfume. Could it really have been 29
years ago that I sat in Horst Milde‰Ûªs (father of Mark) apartment planning this
race with him and dreaming of such a moment? And would I ever then have
believed that the race we started in 1983 with 243 women would grow into 18,561
women?
 
Yes and no. I always
believed that women‰Ûªs running would be huge. But huge in 1983 was 6,000, not
18,000. When Horst showed me the starting line‰ÛÓin front of the Brandenburg
Gate, Berlin‰Ûªs most iconic monument‰ÛÓI was also convinced that this was going to
be a women‰Ûªs run for the ages. And when Horst became so famous for so long with
his race directing that he had to turn the business over to his son, I knew
that the race organization had become totally professional, and the women
runners along with it. Even the vast majority of those who are not professional
runners now expect a professional experience.
 
The secret to this growth,
it seems, was to continue with our original Avon Running philosophy of offering
every woman–regardless of her age or ability‰ÛÓan open-arms-welcoming
opportunity to experience fun and fitness while at the same time giving
professional athletes and developing runners a world class competitive
opportunity, and a chance to win prize money and fame. That, along with color,
spirit, flowers, plentiful clean toilets and feminine amenities made the event
cool. And now it is cooler than ever.
 

The Avon Frauenlauf Berlin has always been the biggest women‰Ûªs running
event in Germany, and it became the design model for many others in Europe. The
best women runners in Germany‰ÛÓeven some of the best in the world‰ÛÓhave run the
race… This article, along with Jean Cann’s history of the Tufts 10K and 40 years’s of New York’s Mini 10K for Women by Gordon Bakoul is is in the curretn (July/Aug) issue of NER

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