I just finished reading Marathon Woman by Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially enter and run the Boston Marathon. She's the one in the famous pics with her boyfriend bodyblocking the official who tried to physically grab her and pull her out of the race.
Yes, the book describes her training for the marathon and the incident in Boston. But the book also describes why she started running; the lack of athletic programs for women during her HS, collegiate, and adult years; and Switzer's profound impact on women worldwide. Her professional career directly focused/focuses on bringing running opportunities to women, but hearing her speak (through the book) about the broader impact sporting opportunities have on women and communities also illustrates the indirect impact of her work on the status and well-being of women.
Reading the book made me feel incredulous about how things used to be not too long ago, grateful for the work of people before my time, and empowered. And incredulous again. It wasn't really that long ago that most women didn't play sports. I started playing soccer and baseball AFTER my younger brother (two years younger than me) b/c my town didn't have girls teams and my parents didn't think it was a good idea for me to be the only girl. So I didn't play organized (or too many unorganized) sports until I was 9-even though my dad taught me how to play catch when I was 3. We eventually moved to a town with girls teams and when I expressed interest in my brother's soccer team my dad suggested I might like to play the following year (on a girls team). I was eventually allowed to play baseball with the boys b/c the softball program in my town was pretty awful. But years later, I'm the athlete and my brother isn't. It's still weird to me to think about the unequal start we had.
I hate to think what my life would have been like if I had been born at any time in human history other than the present. In a lot of ways I'm a perfectionist and conformist and I doubt I would have wanted (if it had even occurred to me) to be the first female little league player, EMT (still a male-dominated field b/c of its association with firefighting), lawyer, runner, etc. In addition to these recently opened doors, sports have also made me more confident and independent in all areas of my life, and no matter what else is going on, I have always athletics to count on. In a strange way athletics is a best friend to me.
So a big thank you to Kathrine Switzer and the many others who made my life and lifestyle a possibility.