Equality in exercise

It’s hard to believe that within my lifetime people thought women could not run a marathon. The marathon is becoming a den of equality. Women can definitely not only finish a marathon, but can compete to win. The fastest women are catching up to the fastest men.

It was 1966 when Roberta Gibb snuck out of the bushes to run the Boston Marathon. In 1967 Boston race officials tried to tear the number off of K.V. (Kathrine) Switzer. They were denied by Switzer’s Syracuse teammates who acted as her bodyguards. They had to physically defend Switzer. The race director, Jock Stemple, was enforcing the beliefs of the time. It was not generally accepted that women could compete events longer than 800 meters. The experts were wrong.

In 1970 one of my sister’s fellow teachers asked her if she would help him out. He was supposed to help judge the long jump at a middle school track meet. Something came up and he was unable to do it. Would she? My sister, Nancy agreed. At the time women were not allowed to judge at track meets. She did not know that. Someone actually stood up to complain.  This year Nancy watched me run the marathon in Austin, Texas. She was impressed at how many women were in the marathon.

Joan Benoit Samuelson won the first Olympic women’s marathon in 1984. In the mid 90s I was a single man who wanted to buy a clothes dryer. I only needed a simple dryer. I chose one at Sears. The saleslady did not like my choice. My mind was made up. I only needed a dryer that was capable of drying me jeans and not shrinking my sweaters. She thought that I needed a more expensive dryer. She actually asked me, a 35-year-old man, if my mother could help me with the decision. I bought the dryer somewhere else.

Back to today. I am glad so many women are running. Today 55 percent of half marathon finishers are women. I am sure race directors all over the country are thrilled with this, too. Heart disease is the leading killer of women as well as men. Isn’t equality wonderful?  Heart disease and diabetes do not discriminate. Our occupation makes us more susceptible to sedentary diseases. Regular exercise makes everyone less susceptible. So, lady truckers get out there and run, walk or bicycle, just do something.

Jeff Clark is a trucker, a grandfather and an eight-time marathon (26.2 miles) finisher. He is dedicated to helping truckers improve their health through better habits. You can contact him at [email protected].