It amazes me how small this world is. It was a regular day at work when a rep for a shoe company came into the store to show us their goods. There were only a few people there that morning so me and my fellow co-worker went to greet them. After a few minutes of talking they mentioned they were from Portland. I knew we would get along. It turns out the wife of one of the gentlemen that came into the store that morning was coaching my fellow teammate and Alan Webb’s wife, Julia (Rudd) Webb. After making that connection I told him about my work with Women Talk Sports and said that his wife might be interested since she is a coach for female athletes. He immediately (and proudly might I add!) told me that she had gone back to film school and created the film “Run Like A Girl” which tells the tale of the history of women’s distance running. After getting home I immediately purchased the film and made contact with his wife, Charlotte Lettis Richardson.
I have literally just finished the film which follows a young high school cross country runner and tells the story of Charlotte Lettis Richardson and World Record Holder, Doris Brown. Listening to the stories of these women gave me a real picture of what it was like to be one of the women who paved the way, who ran in men’s races against the desires of the officials, who were given insulting prizes, who had men swear at them and push them into lakes along their running path all because they wanted to run. It painted the picture of how far distance running has come for women. It’s wonderful to hear them tell of their experience and get to compare it to something like today, where female athletes expect to play, who expect to run in college, who expect sponsorship after college. How great is that?
Richardson and Brown both eventually ended their running career. Since I have ended mine as well I was interested to hear their perspective “the end.” Brown said when reflecting on the end of her running career, “I didn’t reach the goals I anticipated” but I made the most of the experience. She continued that it is easy to say that your career sucked when you don’t accomplish what you set out to do, but the experience of the whole thing is truly awesome. Further, the times that you had with your friends, teammates, and rivals are the things you remember more than what time you set on the track. I would have to agree with her on that. Running teaches you about life, and as Richardson said “sports teaches you how to do hard things.” I think many “former” athletes would be able to attest to how right Brown is in her statement. We can all think of how we just fell short of what we wanted. We can either choose to hold onto that, or to be amazed at what our bodies allowed us to do. We push them to the breaking point. That drive will force you into something else that will require that same boldness. The cool thing is…we’ve already had practice.
Check out this film if you are at all interested in the history of women’s distance running, or the history of women in sport. What we can take away from this can help us understand what it is like to pave the way so that we can do that for the next generation. To order “Run Like A Girl” visit www.runlikeagirlfilm.com. For $20 you can get 35 minutes of stories, history and insight.
***Bonus: Stay tuned for an interview with the filmmaker, coach, and mother, Charlotte Lettis Richardson!