A group of us from the NWLC kicked off the Title IX 40th anniversary celebration early… We started whooping it up at 7:30 am on a recent Saturday morning when we took our places at the starting line of the Lawyers’ Have Heart 10K race in Washington. We continued the festivities by running 6.2 miles in the grueling D.C. heat.
In honor of the anniversary, we called our team The Title IXers.
|The Title IXers before our run|
NWLC’s Title IXers range in age from early 20s to early 40s. We are all beneficiaries of Title IX. It’s because of that law that we grew up in a time when girls’ and young women’s participation in elementary school, middle school, high school and college sports was a given.
Many of us were active in sports then and still are today. We ran, swam and played for the Panthers, the Knights, the Lions, the Bulldogs, the Blazers, the Gators and the Mutts. Through sports, we’ve formed friendships, learned life lessons, become leaders, stayed healthy and had a huge amount of fun. And most of the time, we think of this as nothing to write home about.
But this is a good week to remember. It’s a good week to remember the women runners who came before us and fought for our right to be on that racecourse on Saturday. It is difficult for us to imagine that one or two generations before, we might well have been told to get off the course, just as Julia Chase-Brand was 51 years ago, on the day when she became the first woman runner to participate in a road race in the U.S.
Julia ran at a time when women were officially prohibited by the Amateur Athletic Union from running road races. They told her to leave, but she stayed to complete the course in an impressive time which race officials then refused to count. It is her courage, and the courage of other women like her, that makes our participation in Saturday’s race unremarkable.
Except that it isn’t. It isn’t unremarkable that in only two generations we’ve gone from having no women on the course to women making up nearly half the field.
So the moment feels right to say thanks to those women who wouldn’t take no for an answer. Thanks to Chase-Brand, Roberta Gibb—who ran the first Boston Marathon in 1966, and Kathrine Switzer—who ran it in 1967 and managed to escape an official’s attempt to physically remove her from the course. Thanks to your courage, we’ll keep on lacing up our shoes, logging the miles and running all the way to the finish line.
And you can count on this: At the NWLC, we’ll continue to do our level best to protect and enforce Title IX so that girls and women in this generation, and future generations, can run on any course they choose.
Are you or were you a junior high, high school or college female athlete? What has participating in sports meant to you? Click here to share your story.