Avon first introduced its International Running Circuit for women in 1978, yet athletes and women can still feel its effects today. A revolutionary program, the circuit provided women with the chance to experience competitive international running, to strengthen themselves and provide opportunity for generations to come. In its storied eight-year history, the series comprised more than 200 running events that stretched through 27 different countries and included over a million participants. Not only did the series have an incredible effect on the sports world and was instrumental in attracting more women to athletics, but Avon was also an integral force in getting the women's marathon officially included in the Olympic Games beginning with the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics.


Kathrine Switzer & Carolyn Ashton
Beginning in 1978, with the inaugural Avon International Women's Marathon held in Atlanta, Georgia where a relative unknown by the name of Martha Cooksey beat out a pack of favorites, that included 17 of the world's top 20 performers, to win the title. The following year, Avon went to Germany where a forty-year-old Joyce Smith stunned the world when she won the event, setting a British record in the process. In 1980, Avon spearheaded another first as the streets of London shut down for the first time ever for any event other than a royal procession. Six national records were set and a young Lorraine Moller, competing in borrowed running shoes, stunned the world and won the event.


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1981 was the year of the Americans in the Avon International Women's Marathon. Held in Ottawa, Canada, the marathon was won by Nancy Conz from Southampton, Massachusetts, with Joan Benoit placing second and Cincinnati, Ohio native Julie Isphording placing third. The following year, the marathon swept south to San Francisco where Lorraine Moller became the first woman to win the Avon marathon twice. In addition, the 1982 marathon was one of the first "open prize money" races ever held, with a $15,000 developmental training purse.

As a precursor to the 1984 Olympic Games, the 1983 Avon International Marathon was held in Los Angeles and was contested on the actual course that was to be used the following year. Californian Julie Brown won the event hands down and since the race served as a qualifier for the 1983 World Championships in Helsinki, Brown and two other Americans earned a trip to compete in Finland.

At a time when female professional athletes were not encouraged or at times even taken seriously, Avon created a platform for women to excel in sports and galvanized them to develop their potential as serious athletes, increase their levels of health and fitness, and enhance their lives by becoming equals on the field and off. Today, Avon is poised to recreate this highly successful circuit and empower a new generation of women to triumph in sports and their personal well being.