Four of “the six who sat” marathon runners on making history
Fifty years ago, a handful of female runners made a decision that would change the sport forever: Instead of beginning to run when the gun went off, a group of women sat down to protest the inequitable treatment of men and women in the race.
“We wanted to make an impression and we wanted to get things changed,” one of the original runners, Nina Kuscsik told CBS News.
Until 1972, the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) banned women from competing in distance races. Jane Muhrcke, who was part of the group of protesters, recalled doctors and coaches of the time saying that competing in the sport would cause a woman’s uterus to fall out.
When the AAU lifted its ban, it required women runners to compete on an altered course or start time. At the 1972 New York City Marathon, the handful of women entered in the race were to begin 10 minutes ahead of male runners.
“I didn’t understand it at all,” Pat Barrett, who was also apart of the protesting group, said.
But the six women, now known as “The Six Who Sat,” wouldn’t let the requirements deter them. At the New York City Marathon’s start, the ladies decided to wait out the imposed head start.
Muhrcke said the decision was meant to show the AAU “that it could be done and it made sense.” She recalled the men that were running that year being “very supportive.”
But others also said their decision to run made them subject to harassment.
“In the old days, sometimes people throw things at you,” Barrett said.
“It was at the time of women’s liberation, but men were — and young boys — they were constantly making fun of women running,” Lynn Blackstone of “The Six Who Sat” said.
That year, Kuscsik became the first woman champion of the New York City Marathon. At the time she told CBS News that she “really felt very good until the last half mile.”
“My legs got a little tight,” she told a CBS News reporter at the time.
Shortly after the historic race, the AAU dropped its different requirements for women. Now, five decades later, nearly 24,000 women are registered to run the New York City Marathon on Sunday. And some of the original “Six Who Sat” are still running.
“That whole development is absolutely amazing,” Blackstone said. “Never think of it, you know, because I or we had something to do. It’s just the development, the evolution.”