Behind the photo that changed the Boston Marathon forever - and opened distance running to women the world over | Deadspin

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It’s an incredible change from 50 years ago. The very few marathons that did exist – even Boston’s, the oldest continuously run marathon in the world – attracted less than one thousand runners. The entrants were all amateurs; finishers at Boston were rewarded with a bowl of Dinty Moore beef stew. Oh, and the runners were all male. Women were banned from running marathons.

Even in the heart of the women’s liberation movement, the governing body of amateur sport, the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), did not sanction the participation of women in distance running. The longest race for female runners at the Olympics was 800 meters – or less than half a mile. The universal thinking among sports’ male powerbrokers was that women were not physically equipped to endure the rigors of the marathon distance of 26.2 miles.