History of Women in




Marathons and Triathlons

Before 1800

490 B.C.- Pheidippides ran to Sparta to request help for Athens. The marathon race commemorates this run.


1896- The first modern Olympics were held, but women were not allowed to participate. However, a Greek woman was an unofficial competitor in the marathon because she ran the course the day after the men’s race in four and a half hours. For the final lap, she was not allowed to enter the stadium, therefore she ran around the stadium. While her real name was Stamati Revithi, she was labeled Melpomene, which is the Greek muse of tragedy. The founder of the modern Olympics stated “It is indecent that the spectators should be exposed to the risk of seeing the body of a women being smashed before their very eyes. Besides, no matter how toughened a sportswoman may be, her organism is not cut out to sustain certain shocks.”


1908- The distance of the modern marathon was standardized to twenty six miles and 385 yards at the Olympic games in London, because it was the distance between Windsor Castle and White City Stadium.

1967- Race officials tried to tear Katherine Switzer’s number from her back during the Boston Marathon.

1974- The first known triathlon was held in San Diego’s Mission Bay, which was organized by the San Diego Track club and was intended as a break from the grind of training for marathons.

1978- The first Ironman Triathlon was held in Honolulu, Hawaii, in which fifteen men began and only twelve finished.

1979- At the second Ironman Triathlon held in Honolulu Hawaii, Lyn Lemaire placed sixth overall and became the first Ironwoman.

1985- Grete Waitz from Norway won her ninth of eleven marathons.

1983- The first all-female triathlon had more than 600 participants.

1983- Grete Waitz won the inaugural world marathon championship in Helsinki.

1984- Joan Benoit of the U.S. won the first Olympic Marathon for women.

1994- The first African American woman to win a major marathon was Tegla Loroupe of Kenya in the New York City Marathon.

1997- Paula Newby-Frazier became the first person to win twenty Ironman competitions.

1999- The first national Ironman Triathlon for women held in the United States was won by Canadian Heather Fuhr.


2000- The triathlon sport was added to the Olympics at Sydney.

2001- The first woman to run a marathon in less than two hours and twenty minutes was Naoko Takahashi from Japan, who won the Berlin Marathon in a time of 2:19.45.

2001- One week after Naoko Takahashi set the world record at the Berlin Marathon, Catherine Ndereba won the Chicago Marathon in 2:18.47.

2005- The organizers of the New York City Marathon announced they would be rewarding the female champion $130,000, that is $30,000 more than its male winner received. This may be the first time a sporting event ever paid more to a female than a male in the same competition. It is also the largest first prize for any marathon.


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