July/Aug issue of NER)
Come A Long Way, Baby!
by Dave McGillivray
I still find it amazing to see the incredible surge in
participation in road races these days. So many races now need to set field
size limits and as such so many of them are still selling out in record time.
A major influence on all of this is the fascinating growth
in women’s participation. I remember it was only a few short years ago that the
ratio of men to women in races was a constant 80% to 20% or thereabouts. Now,
amazingly, in many races women are outnumbering the men and in some races by a
substantial amount! I think this is great and why wouldn’t I?
The very first all-women’s race I ever directed was actually
a triathlon in the mid-80s at Wellesley College, an all-women’s school
(appropriate location). I partnered with Conventures, Inc. who manages the
all-women Tufts 10K race, formerly known as the Bonne Bell 10K. In fact, Bonne
Bell also sponsored the triathlon. I believe this could have been one of the
first, if not the very first all-women’s triathlon ever conducted. I recall
about 400 women participating, a great turnout for a first time event.
It wouldn’t be until 25 years later in 2003 that I would actually
direct my first all-woman road race, but it was a biggieÛÓthe 2003 Women’s
Marathon National Championship. Next up was the 2004 US Women’s Marathon
Olympic Trials in St. Louis, MO.
It was really refreshing and very relaxing working with just the women. They
seemed calm, content, appreciative and somewhat unassuming.
I truly enjoyed my experience working with the USOC and the
Women’s LDR Committee of USATF on these championship events. This was the first
time the women ever experienced a criterium (multiple loop style course) and by
all accounts the women really liked it.
I really must have enjoyed my 2004 Olympic Trials experience
as I was then fortunate enough to direct the 2008 US Women’s Olympic Trials Marathon
in Boston! Now that was a treat for sure. Similar to St. Louis, we designed a
loop course starting and finishing on Boylston Street near and at the finish
line of the Boston Marathon. This race was held on the Saturday before the
marathon. The crowds were enormous and I personally thought it was one of the
most thrilling races I have ever managed.
Although Deena Kastor ran a strategic and gutsy race, the
highlight for me was watching hometown favorite, Joan Samuelson, accomplish
exactly what she said she would do by running an impressive 2:52 marathon. The
roar of the crowds was deafening as she would loop by the stands at the finish line
three times. It was as emotional as it gets in this sport. Joanie continues to
be my running hero. And, given her 2:52 performance at Boston again this April,
six years later, there just doesn’t seem to be any sign of her slowing down any
Then, in 2009, I was approached by the owners of Women’s
Running Magazine and asked if DMSE Sports would be willing to help them kick
off a new Women’s Half Marathon Series. We held races in: St. Pete, FL;
Nashville, TN; and Scottsdale, AZ. The turnout for all these races was impressive.
For some reason, it was just a different feeling managing these all-women’s
I never felt the type of intensity or pressure I normally
feel when directing a more competitive men and women’s race. That must say
something special about women and how they appreciate just being there and
being with their friends and other family members. Girl’s weekend away was a
favorite Û¢mantra’ among these women.
As for me personally competing against women, there was a
day (a long time ago) when I felt I could run with the very best women. Well,
that didn’t last too long. Not only have I gotten much slower, but they have
gotten much faster. Ever look at the results of many of the local road races
nowadays? You will almost always see a woman finishing in the top-10 overall
in the race. Fascinating!
So, thank you ladies for continuing to inspire all of us and
for helping to grow and develop our sport at record pace. You are now the
backbone of our sport and all of us are looking forward to seeing even more women
out on the road in the coming years.