Lynn Jennings | Lorraine Moller | Grete Waitz | Yuko Arimori | Julie Brown | Martha Cooksey | Nancy Conz | Joyce Smith | Cheryl Collins | Joan Benoit Samuelson | Kathrine Switzer

LYNN JENNINGS


Heralded as a pioneer in women's running, Lynn Jennings is convinced that women should pursue their passions above and beyond the traditional roles of marriage and child rearing that society has imposed upon them. If it's sports they wish to pursue, then so much the better.


Lynn Jennings
Jennings was the first female on her high school's all-male track team. From her sophomore year until graduation, Jennings was ranked number one on her team and third overall in the league. She continued to run in college as part of the Princeton University track team, but struggled to keep up in school and stick to a rigorous practice schedule. In fact, she quit running several times out of frustration.

In 1984, she was inspired to resurrect her career as she watched Joan Benoit Samuelson win the Olympic Gold medal in the first women's marathon to be included in the Olympic Games. Watching Samuelson win was a thrilling victory for female athletes, yet a personal disappointment for Jennings. She not only trained alongside Samuelson as part of the Liberty Athletic Club, but also had beaten her several times in competitive races. At that moment, Jennings recommitted herself to the sport and trained her way into the 1988 Olympic Games, where she finished sixth in the 10,000 meter event.

After that it was all the way to the top: Jennings went on to win nine USA cross-country championships and an Olympic Bronze medal in the 10,000 meters in Barcelona in 1992. In addition, she holds the American record for the 10,000 meters, the American indoor record for the 5,000 and 3,000 meters, and the American road records in the 5K and 10K distances. She has won scores of road races all over the world.

LORRAINE MOLLER


Lorraine Moller
In 1969, a barefoot New Zealand girl stunned the world when she literally ran into the hearts of a nation and, shortly thereafter, the world. At a time when female professional athletes were few and far between, Lorraine Moller credits athletics with leading the women's movement in general, citing the sporting world as the ideal arena for social change.

Moller began her career running on the natural grass tracks of New Zealand. She always ran barefoot and didn't receive her first pair of track shoes until her mid-teens -- black leather shoes with long spikes that had to be filed down to better grip the new, artificial tracks. Criticism abounded at the onset of her career as "elders" debated the benefits and risks to a young girl involved in what was seen as an arduous sport. But Moller persevered, inspired by her love of running. By the time she was 17 years old, Moller had begun to compete internationally, competing in senior women's events because there were no junior-level alternatives.

While attending the University of Dunedin in New Zealand, Moller relied on the sport to get a broader education – traveling to meets around the world and experiencing life through her track shoes. Since prize money or even appearance fees were completely out of the question for female athletes, Moller became a physical education teacher shortly after graduation, but left after a brief stint to concentrate on running full time.

In 1978 Moller decided to come to the United States, where she discovered distance running. She ran in a few qualifiers, but credits the first Avon Women's World Championship Marathon in London in 1980 as the "official" beginning of her long-distance career. Moller won that marathon, but not without difficulty. Since she was a short-distance runner by training, Moller was unaccustomed to drinking water throughout a race. She would stop at every water stop and then have to sprint to catch up to the pack. Nonetheless, she won the race – which marked the first time authorities closed the streets of London for a non-royal event.

Lorraine Moller was a Bronze Medalist in the Women's Marathon at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. She has won three Avon International Marathons and is the only woman to have participated in all four Women's Olympic Marathons since their inception at the 1984 Olympic Games. In addition, Moller is a heroine in Japan where she captured the OSAKA Marathon title three times (1986, 1987 and 1989).

GRETE WAITZ


Grete Waitz
Grete Waitz donned her first pair of track shoes at a time when female athletes were not taken seriously, given equal opportunities or supported. As a teen in Oslo, Norway, she was too young to realize how much discrimination prevailed in sports she was merely too busy trying to get to the next race. She constantly fought with her family to get to local races since her brothers were seen as the athletes and Waitz as a young girl who ought to watch them from the sidelines. It wasn't until 1970 when Waitz began competing on an international level that she received any firm support from her parents.

Two years later, Waitz was part of an Olympic first – the first time that women were allowed to participate in the 1500-meter distance at the Olympic Games in Munich. Waitz received a lot of encouragement from her male counterparts at the Munich games and continued to train seriously. However, to safeguard her future, she began attending a teachers college in Norway and trained twice a day running an average of 75 miles per week.

In 1975, Waitz was one of the first women to run the 3000 meters in competitive races. She broke the world record twice that year for the 3000 meter distance and for the first time realized that she was part of a revolution that tried to attain equality for female athletes.

In the late '70s, Waitz started running longer distances and entered her first marathon in 1978 in New York City. Although she had never run more than 13 miles, she not only won this marathon but also set a world record in the process. Through the years, Waitz has returned to New York City again and again to shatter world records and establish an unsurpassed tradition in women's long distance running. However, in the late 70's her mind was set on competing in her third Olympics, so Waitz was extremely upset to learn that Norway was one of the countries boycotting the 1980 Los Angeles Olympic Games. Instead, Waitz used her time to refocus her energies to training. She quit working as a teacher and relied on running to sustain her since prize money now became a standard at most world-class events.

In 1984, she finally realized a long-time dream when she not only ran the Olympic Marathon the first time it was offered for women, but she earned a silver medal in the effort. She went on to set four world records in the event after breaking the two-hour, thirty-minute mark..

Waitz is a nine-time winner of the New York City Marathon, five-time winner of the World Cross-country Championships and a Gold Medal winner of the 1993 World Championship Marathon in Helsinki. She her retirement from competitive running, Waitz has become an accomplished author and global health and fitness advocate. In addition, she has done a variety of charity work on behalf of CARE International and the International Special Olympics, among others.

YUKO ARIMORI


Yuko Arimori
In the past 12 months Yuko Arimori has starred in more commercials than Michael Jordan yet few people outside the running community know who she is. Her popularity in Japan as an elite marathon runner has made her the country's darling, beloved by media and fans alike.

Born in 1966 in Okayama City, Japan, Arimori began seriously competing after she graduated college in 1989. She wasn't particularly a strong runner immediately after graduation, but she joined forces with one of the world's best marathon coaches Yoshio Koide. In 1990 she embarked in a steady rise to the top by placing sixth at the Osaka Women's Marathon, setting a Japanese national record in the process. Later that year, she took fourth place at the World Championships which served as a precursor to the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. Arimori had a spectacular race at the Barcelona Games, battling with Russia's Valentina Yegorova for the gold medal. Although she placed second, Arimori became the first Japanese woman to medal in track and field since the 1928 Games. Returning to her homeland as a hero, Arimori was nevertheless suffered a combination of post-Olympic blues and a series of serious injuries including surgeries on both ankles, that sidelined her for three years.

In 1995 she began to gear up for the following year's Atlanta Games. She won the principal Japanese qualifier The Hokkaido Marathon which was broadcast on national television and triumphed her comeback. She easily qualified for the Atlanta Games and was once again fighting Russia's Valentina Yegorova for a medal. Arimori took the bronze at the Atlanta Olympics, yet this victory proved sweeter as she became the second Japanese track and field athlete to win medals in two consecutive Olympics, overcoming injuries in the process.

Today, Arimori lives and trains in Boulder, CO, and studies English. She is in a self-imposed two year break from competition, yet she plans to begin serious training in late 1998 in anticipation of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

JULIE BROWN

At the age of eighteen, Julie Brown held the national high school record in the 800-meter distance. Her accomplishments in high school helped make her an early pioneer as she became the first woman to earn an athletic scholarship to UCLA for cross-country running.

Through her years at UCLA, Brown earned a Broderick Award for Outstanding Collegiate Athlete in Track and Field and cross-country. In addition, her positive experiences at UCLA encouraged her to pursue running well after college, through the late'70s. In 1975, Brown was crowned the world's cross-country champion and that prestigious victory spurred her to try out for the United States Olympic team in the 1980 squad in both distances but was unable to compete when the United States boycotted the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, Russia.

Although her experiences with the Moscow Games was a setback, Brown persevered and continued with the sport. She shifted her focus to distance road racing and won the 1983 Avon International Marathon in Los Angeles with a personal best of 2:26:26. The Los Angeles Marathon proved to be a great stepping stone in Brown's pursuit of her Olympic dream because a year later, in 1984, she again became a United States Olympic Team member this time as a marathon runner in the inaugural women's marathon at the Los Angeles Games. Unfortunately, she struggled with mononucleosis during the competition and finished 32nd.

Brown retired from running in the late '80s to pursue a career in law. Yet, she leaves behind an impressive legacy of accomplishments including an IAAF world cross-country championship; former world and American records in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters; and thirteen national titles in track and field and cross-country. In addition, she is ranked the second all-time USA marathon runner.

MARTHA COOKSEY


Martha Cooksey
In the late '70s, Martha Cooksey was a quintessential California girl who jogged with her dog. In her early 20's and with almost no competitive running experience to her credit, Cooksey entered a race in Los Angeles in 1978 and placed second. She competed in several races locally in Southern California and nationally in Phoenix and Boston where her parents saw her run for the first time. Recognizing her talent, they offered to send her to the first Avon International Marathon in Atlanta. Due to her experience in Southern California running, Cooksey immediately acclimated herself to the hot weather conditions in Atlanta and was crowned the winner of the Avon International Marathon the first race of the then newly-created Avon Running Series.

Cooksey's success in Atlanta was somewhat of an anomaly for racing enthusiasts. Prior to the Avon International Marathon, no one had ever heard of the Californian. In spite of this, she won over a promising young star of the era, Julie Brown. The Avon International Marathon jumstarted the first year of real competitive running for Cooksey. During that year she participated in 24 races, including the prestigious New York City Marathon, in which she placed second to world-renowned talent Grete Waitz. Before the end of the decade Cooksey became a spokeswoman for Avon and was a featured guest speaker and clinician appearing prior to each Avon race. In 1980, she overcame a series of injuries o win a 30K race in Cincinnati that served as a qualifier for the Avon International Marathon in London, but Cooksey injured herself again, postponing her career for two years.

In 1982, Cooksey embarked on a series of world-class accomplishments when she made the world Cross-country team and competed at the World Championships in Rome. These achievements were followed by setting an American record in the 15K at a race in Lisbon, Portugal in 1986 and a year later she was on a championship road relay team that won the 10K in Hiroshima, Japan. In addition, in 1987, she won the 10,000-meter race at the Pan American Games in Indianapolis. To this day, Cooksey credits her accomplishments to a supportive environment created through racing circuits such as Avon's which create and foster a cohesive, grassroots-level support for women. 1988 proved to be the last real competitive racing year for Cooksey, but the 43-year-old has competed locally and won the annual Pike's Peak race in Colorado Springs, reviving hopes of a comeback.

NANCY CONZ


Nancy Conz
As a young girl growing up in Massachusetts, Nancy Conz ran on her high school track team. At the time the longest distance that women were allowed to run was a mile, yet Conz wanted to run further and faster. After graduation, Conz ran in local road races and in 1980 won a trip to the Avon International Marathon in London, England through a local qualifier in Sudbury, MA. She placed second in London, but the experience prepared her for a future of marathon running.

She continued her career through Avon's support, getting from qualifier to qualifier earning several USA titles and Massachusetts State titles along the way. Her biggest victory came just one year later at another Avon sponsored race – the Avon International Marathon in Ottawa, which she easily won. Surprisingly, Conz never had a coach, but always trained independently for every race. She continued to dominate in marathon running in the early '80s winning the Chicago Marathon in 1982 and setting the American 20K record at a Labor Day race in New Haven, CT, that same year.

Initially, there was no prize money for world-class female runners. Yet, by the time Conz had emerged as a contender, prize money was becoming more available for serious athletes. Thus, Conz was able to make a career out of the sport that she loved and support herself by running.

Nancy Conz currently resides in Southampton, MA with her husband and two boys.

JOYCE SMITH


Joyce Smith
Joyce Smith was introduced to running at a summer camp when she was 15 years old. Initially, she took it up to broaden her social life and make new friends, but at age 17, Smith joined her local athletic club and started to train as a serious athlete. Three years later, she won her first national race -- a cross-country event held in her native England.

Although Smith was the British national cross-country champion in 1959 and 1960, she had to wait for almost a decade before she could experience international competition, due to the lack of international events aside from the Olympics which accepted women. However, her chance came in 1967, when the first international cross-country race was held in Wales, and Smith placed fourth in front of her home crowd. From that point on, Smith vowed to help make cross-country more prevalent as an international sport. In 1971, she placed third in the International Cross-Country Championships. A year later, in 1972, she won that International Cross-Country Championship and then went on to place second at the same competition in 1973. In addition, Smith got her first Olympic experience when she participated in the 1500 meters in the 1972 Olympics in Munich. Overwhelmed by the experience, Smith ran two personal bests in her heats, setting two British records in the process.

After earning a Bronze medal in the 3000 meters at the 1974 European Track and Field Championships in Rome, Smith had to stop training for her second Olympics when she became pregnant. Yet she returned a year later and began training to run marathons. In 1979, she participated in her first marathon -- an Avon sponsored event in Sandbach, England. Later that same year, she won her first marathon, the Avon International Marathon in Waldniel, Germany.

Her streak continued as Smith, 42, went on win the first Tokyo Women's International Marathon in 1979 and again in 1980. She excelled as a marathon runner and won the London Marathon two years in a row, in 1981 and 1982.

Smith currently lives in Hertfordshire, England. She is married and has two daughters. Today, at age 60, Smith still continues to run at least once a day to keep fit and healthy.

CHERYL COLLINS


Cheryl Collins
Olympic hopeful Cheryl Collins has enjoyed an unconventional and meteoric rise to become one of the United States' most promising up-and-comers. In 1994, she surprised the running world when, at age 25, she qualified for the Olympic trials after just competing in a few local 5K's and with just six weeks of practice. In 1996, with only two marathons under her belt, she impressed Olympic trial watchers when she placed 25th overall with a time of two hours and 40 minutes, even though she was considered a late comer to this elite level of competition.

But Collins has spent her life defying stereotypes. As a young woman she excelled in math and science and decided to major in electrical engineering in college. She ran during college and in her post-college years to relieve stress, always running with a Walkman. Motivated as much by her love of music as by her love of the sport, Collins broke all the rules when she won her first major 5K race while running with a Walkman. Collins' fun-loving style and varied interests outside of running have led some to criticize her for not being serious enough, for "having too much of a life" outside of running even for being too feminine but he's proven all her detractors wrong.

In 1997, she qualified for the National Championship in South Carolina, coming in second with a time of two hours, 39 minutes and eighteen seconds, her personal best. One of the highlights of her career came in August 1997 when she placed first among the American women competing at the World Championship in Greece. A unique blend of a competitive athlete, savvy businesswoman and refined lady, she represents the Spirit of the Avon Running circuit and proves that it's possible to be a world-class athlete while enjoying a well-rounded, full life.

JOAN BENOIT SAMUELSON


Joan Benoit Samuelson
In 1973, a sixteen year-old phenomenom from Maine named Joan Benoit won the coveted Boston Marathon. Six years. later, she returned to Boston and triumphed once more, shattering the world's record with a time of 2:21:21. Today, she remains one of the top-ranked masters marathon runners and is the current U.S. marathon record holder.

Benoit discovered running in high school as a form of rehabilitation while recovering from a serious skiing injury. Once she began concentrating on running full-time, it did not take her long to find success. After earning All-American Honors in high school for three straight years, Samuelson won the 1973 Boston Marathon and shortly thereafter entered Bowdoin College in Maine where she continued her training. After graduation, Benoit again competed in the Boston Marathon in 1979, and it was there that she put in her internationally-renowned performance, by running on world-record pace for more than ten miles before winning it all -- setting the world's record and establishing herself as an elite marathon runner. Now, on the forefront of the women's marathon running boom in the late '70s and early '80s, Benoit was thrilled when the women's marathon officially became a competitive sport at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Tragedy struck just seventeen days prior to the United States Olympic trials, when Benoit suffered a serious knee injury and had to have orthoscopic surgery to repair the damage. Not to be denied, Benoit battled back through a comprehensive training and rehabilitative regimen to not only compete, but win the trials, and earned a trip to the Los Angeles Games.

Benoit's lifelong Olympic dream was fulfilled when she electrified the patriotic crowd as she broke from the pack at Olympic Stadium to capture the gold medal in Los Angeles. Her Olympic victory not only solidified her status as a running legend, but also as a fierce competitor who to this day serves as a role model for young runners everywhere.

In the years following the 1984 Olympic Games, Benoit got married and took time off to start a family. Today, she's still involved in masters competition, for athletes over 40, and devotes the rest of her time to a multitude of projects ranging from public speaking and directing clinics, to fundraising and public service. Benoit is the author of The Complete Book of Women's Running and Running Tide -- her autobiography. In addition, she sits on the Board of Directors at many prominent organizations including the Foundation for the Advancement of Education, The International Amateur Athletic Federation Council and Avon's Running -- Global Women's Circuit series. She credits her success to organizations such as Avon, whose early support of women's running paved the way for the marathon's inclusion in the Los Angeles Games.

KATHRINE SWITZER PROGRAM DIRECTOR - AVON RUNNING

Highlights:


Kathrine Switzer
Kathrine Switzer, Program Director, Avon Running, is the original designer of the Avon Running program, and was inspired to create the innovative series 20 years ago after an irate official tried forcibly to remove her from the 1967 Boston Marathon-because she was a woman. Switzer returns to Avon as Program Director of Avon Running after an 11 year career in sports broadcasting, sports promotion and motivational speaking. From 1977-86, Kathrine was Director, Avon Sports Programs, and was responsible for the company's worldwide sponsorship of women's running, tennis, and ice skating events. At its height, the program was active in 21 countries, had over 200 events and involved over a million women. Switzer, with Avon's support, was a driving force to get the women's marathon event included in the Olympic Games in 1984.

In 1986, Switzer formed her own company, AtAlanta Sports Promotions, Inc., as well as emphasized her broadcasting and journalism work, which has included work for ABC, NBC, CBS and Turner Sports Broadcasting and coverage of Olympic and Goodwill Games, as well as 18 Boston, 14 New York City, 12 Pittsburgh and 6 Los Angeles Marathons. In 1997, she won an Emmy Award for the latter event. Switzer is the author of Running and Walking for Women Over 40, The Road to Sanity and Vanity (St. Martin's Press) and is a featured columnist in Marathon and Beyond and Women Today. Her articles have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Runner's World and other publications. Switzer has received numerous citations and awards for her efforts in advancing sports opportunities for women, including a New York State Regents Medal of Excellence, the Billie Jean King Award from the Women's Sports Foundation, being named "Runner of the Decade" by Runner's World magazine and an Honor Fellow from the National Association of Girls and Women in Sports.

Switzer is often best-known as the woman who ran the 1967 Boston Marathon wearing official numbers. When a race official spotted her in the race, he tried to rip off her numbers and throw her out of the race. The incident resulted in worldwide notoriety and inspired Switzer to create running opportunities and equal sport status for women. Switzer has run 35 marathons, won the 1974 New York City Marathon, and in 1975 was ranked sixth in the world, and third in the USA. She competes frequently in age-group running events. Switzer received her BA and MA from Syracuse University's Newhouse School of Public Communications. She is married to Dr. Roger Robinson, professor, author, and noted age-group runner.

Lynn Jennings | Lorraine Moller | Grete Waitz | Yuko Arimori | Julie Brown | Martha Cooksey | Nancy Conz | Joyce Smith | Cheryl Collins | Joan Benoit Samuelson | Kathrine Switzer