#96 - Julia Chase-Brand - The first U.S. woman to officially finish a major road running race
In episode 96, I speak with Julia Chase-Brand a true pioneer of U.S. running.
So let’s go back. In 1960, women weren't allowed in races longer than 880 yards. The popular opinion of the time considered that distance running was harmful to reproductive organs.
Let’s go further back, so in 1928 American and British papers falsely reported on the women finalists in the Olympic 800 meters. Both the photos and the story were faked, yet they provided the justification for a 30-year ban on women’s middle distance running in the United States.
Aged 19 on Thanksgiving Day in 1961, she became a pioneer in women’s running as she became the first woman in the U.S. to officially finish a major road running race, which was the 4.7-mile Manchester Road Race.
Julia made a specific point as shown in the photos to be seen as a female runner, she wore her college gym suit dress. She started the race a block behind the men to avoid the officials.
In the final part of the race, spectators cheered her to the finish, and she did cartwheels at the finish.
Her celebration was short-lived, the Amateur Athletic Union, threatened to ban her for life from all competition unless she agreed to stay out of "men's" road races.
Whilst she was pivotal in creating a change in narrative in the sport, it wasn’t until 1972, that a law was enacted to help prevent gender discrimination in the United States educational athletic system.
However Julia’s own running career was cut short by an car accident. But she has gone on to live such a full and rich life. She earned a Ph.D. in zoology. She did field work with bats and gorillas, and appeared on Sesame Street as "Bat Lady".
Some decades later, she switched fields to gain her M.D. so she could practice psychiatry. And we touch upon some of her key life principles and reflections later into the conversation.
Also watch her TedTalk, where she talks about being able to create a space between other people’s expectations and how she chooses to be seen.
A big thank you to another leading pioneer Patti Catalano Dillon, the first American woman to run a sub 2:30 marathon (episode 50) for the introduction.
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