Written by Lindsey Emery, freelance writer
It’s hard to imagine growing up in a world where you couldn’t run as far or as fast as you wanted. But before June 23, 1972, when Title IX was created, women were nowhere near being placed on an equal playing field with men in sports, and people seriously thought that if you were a girl you couldn’t safely complete a mile, let alone 13.1 or 26.2. Some people even thought your uterus might drop out if you did—true story.
Though Title IX’s birthday has passed, we got the chance to catch up with some of the fastest, strongest, most competitive women at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, OR, to see how it has changed their lives for the better.
Thank you Title IX for never making us choose. “I entered high school in 1971, and we didn’t have a girls’ cross country or track team. We had a track club, and the longest distance women could race at the time was 800 meters (1/2 mile),” says running legend Joan Benoit Samuelson, 55, who won a gold medal in the first-ever women’s Olympic marathon in 1984, just 28 years ago. “By my junior and senior year, women could run the mile, but if they did, they couldn’t participate in any other events, for fear they might overexert themselves.”
“I can’t even imagine what that must have been like,” says Alissa McKaig, 26, who placed 8th in the Olympic Marathon Trials and 11th in the 10,000-meter Trials. “We grew up in a time when you were supposed to be active. In fact, I wasn’t willing to choose between soccer and running in high school, so I did both. I would compete in a track meet, and then go play a soccer game—that never would’ve happened before Title IX.”