Women’s Running Bracket: Heroes, Round One


A few contenders. (From left: Constantina Dita; Kathrine Switzer; Johanna Olson; Gordon Bakoulis and Babe Didrickson)
A few contenders. (From left: Constantina Dita; Kathrine Switzer; Johanna Olson; Gordon Bakoulis and Babe Didrickson)

Up first in our tournament of women’s running are the Heroes. The heroes are fasties, slowbies and even some non-runners who inspire us. Below each pairing is a little information about each contender. Below that is the ballot. Vote wisely! May the best hero win each match-up!

Patsy Mink & Edith Green vs. Kathrine Switzer

Congresswomen Mink & Green helped draft Title IX – thank you from women everywhere!

Kathrine Switzer was the first woman to run Boston with a bib and went on to fight for equality in women’s sports.

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 Constantina Diţă vs. Desiree Davila

Diţă is a former Chicago Marathon champion, but she’s most well-known for winning gold in the marathon at the Beijing Olympics and at 38, becoming the oldest Olympic marathon champion in history. Talk about aging well!

Desi could have been in the marathoner category, but she inspired us all with that 2011 Boston Marathon finish where she fought it out with the world’s best, missing out on first by just two seconds. This after a 2:44 marathon debut!

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Cami Ostman vs. Johanna Olson

Ostman started running as a form of therapy during her mid-life crisis and went on to achieve her goal of running seven marathons on seven continents. Her new goal? Running 50 marathons in all 50 states before she turns… you guessed it… 50.

Olson won the 2000 NCAA Division III Championship on the third anniversary of brain surgery. The seven-time All-American continued to grow as a runner after college, competing in two Olympic Trials marathons. In 2009, her brain tumor returned. Olson ran/walked the Twin Cities marathon in October 2012 with friends and family, finishing in 5:09. She passed away in January at just 33 years of age.

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Molly Barker vs. Gordon Bakoulis

Barker founded Girls on the Run in 1996. What started as a group of 13 girls has grown to serve over 1 million in the organization’s history.

Bakoulis, an elite runner in her own right (5-time Olympic Trials Qualifier), formerly served as editor-in-chief of Running Times and is the author of three running books. She is also the founding coach of Athena New York women’s running team and the editorial director for New York Road Runners, the organization responsible for the New York City Marathon.

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Doris Heritage vs. Helen Stephens

After being banned from using her school track because she was a girl, Heritage joined a local running club, setting a national record in the 440-yard dash. She went on to run with the men’s team at Seattle Pacific College, becoming the first woman to run a sub-5 minute mile indoors, and at one point, holding every women’s national and world record from the 440 up through the mile. Heritage won the first five world cross country titles and 14 U.S. track titles in her career.

Stephens never lost a race in her ENTIRE career – yep, you read that right! She brought home two gold medals from the 1936 Olympics, from the 100 meters and the 4 x 100 meter relay. Just 18 at the time, Stephens ran a world record in the 100 that would stand until 1960. A journalist suggested she was of questionable femininity, so she and a competitor were checked by Olympic officials. After retiring from running, Stephens became the first woman to create, own and manage a semipro basketball team.

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Wilma Rudolph vs. Jacqueline Hansen

An African-American girl born prematurely in the pre-Civil Rights South, Rudolph suffered from polio, forcing her to wear a leg brace until age nine. By the time she was just 16, Wilma earned her first Olympic berth, winning a bronze medal in the 4×100 meter relay in Melbourne’s 1956 Games.  Yet the 1960 Rome  Olympics are where she truly made her mark. Nicknamed “The Tornado”, she was the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field during a single Games. Her 100 meter time was a world-fastest (not counted as a record since it was wind-aided), her time in the 200 meters marked a new Olympic record and her 4×100 meter squad set a new world record as well.

Hansen came to prominence in the early 1970s. Not only did she run fast (12 marathon wins and two world-record marathons, including the first women’s sub-2:40), she kept pushing for equal opportunities for female runners. Hansen was very involved with the fight to allow women in longer distance races, serving was the president of the International Runners Committee, the group that successfully lobbied the IOC to add women’s events for the 5K, 10K and marathon in the Olympics.

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Betty Robinson vs. Babe Didrikson

Robinson medaled in the 100 and the 4×100 at the 1928 Summer Olympics, the first year women’s running events were included. Three years later she was in a plane crash and mistaken for dead, but was discovered to be in a coma. It took her seven months to awaken, six more months to get out of a wheelchair, and two more years to walk. Not only did she walk, but in 1936, she ran the third leg of the gold-medal winning 4×100 at the 1936 Olympics.

Didrikson’s goal was to the be greatest athlete who ever lived. At a time when competition for women was focused on sports like figure skating and tennis, Babe challenged the idea of female athletes having to be ultra-feminine.  She was known for her trash-talking ways and jaw-dropping results, winning the U.S. Olympic Trials track meet singlehandedly, competing in eight events. At the 1932 Olympics, she won gold medals in the javelin and the 80 meter hurdles and a silver medal in the high jump. Babe went on play professional golf, co-founding the LPGA,

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Gladys Burrill vs. Lauren Fleshman

Nicknamed “Gladyator”, at 92, Burrill has the distinction of being the oldest female marathon finisher. Though she’s lead a very active live (pilot, hiker, horseback rider – just to name a few!), Burrill didn’t even run her first marathon until age 86.

Of course she’s one of the women behind Picky Bars and Believe I Am and the author of the always informative and sometimes hilarious site, asklaurenfleshman.com. But what’s really heroic, is that when Fleshman won the 2010 U.S. 5K title, her response to being asked how she did it was, “balls”. In 2012, she was coming off an injury headed into the Olympic Trials and had only been able to run about 15 miles a week and relied heavily on the Elliptigo. Fleshman gave it her all and qualified for the final, breaking 16 minutes.

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Southern transplant who loves 90s boy bands, outdoor adventures and college basketball, although not necessarily in that order. Recovering running perfectionist.

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