October 12, 1975
Eugene, Oregon – October 12, 1975
I was on a pre-race run a few days before marathon day, getting a tour of Eugene, Oregon on my first trip there. The town was mourning the death of Prefontaine, from his accident just five months earlier. I’ve never experienced anything like this before, an entire community mourning.
Eventually, the running conversation included the inevitable question: “So what sort of time are you aiming for?” Somehow it just rolled off my tongue, “six-minute miles,” I caught myself saying. That comment was met with dead silence, followed by hushed murmurs while doing the math. That must have sounded presumptuous!
On race day, it all came together. I chose Eugene, knowing that the course would be relatively flat, fast, cool, maybe drizzly, and most importantly, accurately measured. The NIKE-Oregon Track Club Marathon was run over what was to be the men’s 1976 Olympic Marathon Trials course the next year. It was a sort of dress rehearsal as it were. The race successfully met all of those predictions. Plus, I came into the race feeling good about my workouts. Even my coach, Laszlo Tabori, said at the close of that last interval workout the week before I departed, “you’re ready.” That comment came after my two 5-minute mile repeats I did in the middle of workout, and even though I questioned the connection, I trusted him to know these things. Joe Henderson printed that workout in his book “Road Racers and Their Training” —
Tuesday: 2 1/2 mile warm-up; 15 x 100 shakeups – 8 medium, 7 hard; 10 x 400 with 3 hard (73, 71, 72 seconds); 2 1/2 laps easy; 8 x 150 – 2 medium, 1 hard; 5 laps hard (5:13 mile); 2 laps easy; 5 laps hard (5:17 mile); 2 1/2 laps easy; 10 x 200 – 2 hard, 2 medium; 2 laps easy; 12 x 100 shakedowns – 2 medium, 1 hard.
Monday and Wednesday, I did my favorite workout: “25-lappers” on the track both mornings, plus an 8-mile run one evening and a 9-mile run the other. Thursday was a modified interval workout, easier than Tuesday’s because I had a race on Saturday. Friday was a brief pre-race run. Saturday I ran a 16:55 cross country 5K race. Sunday I did my last long run of 19 miles before departing for Eugene the next week. Those 25-lap workouts were the best! You could do them anywhere, anytime, without using a stopwatch. I ran a continuous 25 laps consisting of a 5-lap warm-up, then repeated sets of four laps per set: 2 x 100 medium, 2 x 150 build-up, 2 x 100 medium and 2 x 100 hard with an easy jog on the curves in between each.
My friends in Eugene, Janet and Tom Heinonen, arranged for my housing with the Ledbetter family. Young Lili Ledbetter was a local high school track star. We became good friends and her mom made the best ever zuchinni bread complete with homegrown filbert nuts. I jokingly say that my race was fueled on zucchini bread, I enjoyed it so much. Throughout the race, Janet and Lili could be found bicycling from station to station, either making sure my bottles of Gookinaid were waiting for me, or more so to check on my progress and splits.
I once said in a Sports Illustrated article that “there were days I could run forever. . . ” and gratefully, this was one of those days. To say it felt effortless sounds overly confident, but it was true. In review, my splits averaged 6:02 per mile, my slowest was 6:08 or :10, and my last 5 miles were at 5:55. I’ve said it before, I cannot do the math when I’m running tired, but that day when I heard my 20-mile split, I could do the math that told me I was ahead of pace, so I immediately picked up the pace and took off, leaving the group of male runners in my company. Looking back, a move like that with six miles to go could have ended badly, but that day it worked.
Look at the picture above, the one with only me in the frame – the one with my glassy-eyed look on my face and not smiling. A sport psychologist once showed me a group of racing photos and pointed out that he could predict the athlete who was going to run well — the one with glassy-eyed look, the one who is focused and able to shut out all distractions. That was me, definitely focused exactly in that way, on exactly the right day.
I approached the finish line in 11th place and someone yelled from the sidelines, “Catch one more guy! Top ten get watches!” But I knew I had something more valuable on the line. What I felt upon finishing, besides pure elation, was a sense of no time passing. Having experienced more than my share of surgeries over my career, I can tell you that it felt like I was coming out of a deep anesthesia slumber, wondering when the procedure was going to begin only to discover it was all over. It was that kind of sense of no time passing. Almost an out of body experience because simultaneously, I had the clear recollection of every mile run, every water station, every split, every inch of the course.
Thanks to my friend, photographer Doug Schwab, I have great photos and a great story written by my friend, Tim Wason. Thanks to Janet Heinonen, it was written up in the OTC newsletter, so the experience was well documented.
Often I wished I could bottle up and patent that formula which made for the “peak performance” and pull it out of my repertoire for every race. However, it was simply one of those marvelous times that I will always treasure, feeling fortunate to ever have such an experience.
Memories of the day, on the 40th Anniversary of my best WR, the first sub-2:40, officially 2:38:19.
Photos made possible thanks to Doug Schwab. Many thanks to Janet Heinonen for support and encouragement on that day and ever since. Thanks to Jon Anderson for the “then and now” photo. Special thanks to Bill Leung for all the photo editing. Thanks to all for our close friendships then, now, and forever more.
Today, I am feeling especially grateful for a new friend, Katie Holmes, who gave me a priceless gift with a book review of my memoir. Please visit her blog “Run Young 50” – http://runyoung50.co.uk/jacqueline-hansen-the-womens-marathon-revolution/
CHAMPION FOR JUSTICE: Judge Harry Pregerson
Thirty-one years ago in 1984, women runners had reason to celebrate our first-ever Olympic Marathon and, not to forget, a 3,000-meter race too. Up until this point, our longest allowable distance to run in the Olympic Games was merely 1500 meters, the metric mile, an event we only gained in 1972 at the Munich Olympics.
It was a bittersweet moment in ‘84, knowing full well that as thrilling as it was to witness our first Olympic Marathon women’s champion, Joan Benoit-Samuelson winning the first gold medal right here in LA, we knew we still had not obtained equality. Once the marathon was successfully lobbied into the Games, the 5,000 and 10,000-meter races were orphaned.
The International Runners Committee (IRC) was the group lobbying for all women’s distance events to go on the Olympic program. It was on their behalf that I personally met with the president and secretary of our governing federation, the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) imploring them to add the two events, only to be told (in short) that the two events were of no value to them, they were boring events that would not sell tickets at the gate, end of story as far as they were concerned.
There was an ensuing battle in the courts. The IRC brought an international class action lawsuit on behalf of over 70 women from nearly 30 countries, representing the best 5,000 and 10,000-meter runners in the world. We went through the courts, ending in appellate court, where an empathetic judge wrote these eloquent words as time ran out to resolve the matter of equity before the Olympic flame was lit in Los Angeles. Remember the Olympic torch was carried in 1984 by our own Southern California decathlete, Rafer Johnson. Harry Pregerson named Rafer in particular as his friend.
Here are the words proclaimed by Judge Harry Pregerson in 1984:
“The International Olympic Committee made concessions to the widespread popularity of women’s track and field by adding two distance races this year. The IOC refused however, to grant women athletics equal status by including all events in which women compete internationally. In so doing, the IOC postpones indefinitely the equality of athletic opportunity that it could easily achieve this year in Los Angeles.
When the Olympics move to other countries, some without America’s commitment to human rights, the opportunity to tip the scales of justice in favor of equality may slip away. Meanwhile the Olympic flame — which should be a symbol of harmony, equality and justice – will burn less brightly over the Los Angeles Olympic Games.”
I have written extensively on this matter, including my own memoir, “A Long Time Coming: Running through the women’s marathon revolution.” I specifically addressed this case in chapter 20, “Pressing our Case.”
Don’t ask me what has taken so long to interview the judge and write this story, but I have just spoken for the first time with the man who wrote those words in an eloquent dissent to the ruling that ended our appeal for equality in the Games in 1984. Judge Harry Pregerson will be 93-years of age next month and he is still active on the bench. What an extraordinary man, a true champion for justice.
I was pleased to report to him that although we may have lost that battle, we certainly won the war. I have no doubt in my mind that our actions resulted in adding the 10,000m and 5,000m races in subsequent Olympics. Not only that, our lawsuit served as a model for the women ski-jumpers, who brought a lawsuit of their own in 2010 (Vancouver Winter Games), resulting much the same way the women runners’ suit concluded, and their event was included in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
Harry Pregerson was appointed to the “Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals” in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter. He had been practicing law since the 1950s and then served as a judge in public courts since 1965. He remains active today and I remain astonished at that fact.
Here stands a former Marine First Lieutenant, veteran of World War II, wounded in the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. The reason this even came up in our conversation – because he explained more than once why he continues to workout at the gym to keep his legs strong. His quadriceps muscles, in both legs, were severely damaged from gunshot wounds. It also explains his deep compassion for veterans’ rights and his support for the non-profit organization “US Vets.”
We talked at length about the LA Athletic Club (LAAC) where at one time he would workout daily, running a mile in the morning on their short indoor track and swim in their pool. However, all the time he was concerned about whether or not they practiced a policy of discrimination. He looked into it, and it bothered him that women and minorities did not have the same privileges or access to the facilities that other members did. Instead of quitting the gym, however, he told me he had a conversation with the owners. Eventually, policies were changed. This was not uncommon among private clubs across the nation.
In California, the Unruh Civil Rights Act originated in 1959, which guaranteed “all persons within the jurisdiction of this state are free and equal; and no matter what their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry or national origin, are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.” Any organization in the State is within the Unruh Act unless it is “truly private.”
The LAAC boasts in their background profile that women have been admitted to the Club since the 1920s. However they might have been allowed access, even to train there, they were not allowed membership before the 1960s. Even so, it was discovered when complaints were made in 1975 that the club admitted women and minorities in a slower and more regulated process, but at least the Club responded with positive action promptly.
The LAAC is credited for being the first club in LA not to discriminate long before required by law to do so. Other clubs weren’t so quick to change policies. As late as 1987, Mayor Tom Bradley signed a bill to ban discrimination at most of the city’s large private clubs. In 1988, the Supreme Court ruled that cities are allowed to force large private clubs to admit minorities and women.
Judge Pregerson explained to me his reason for the lengthy story of his experiences at LAAC. The owners, the Hathaway family, honored him at their annual awards ceremony one year, along with Peter Ueberroth and Buster Crab as his classmates. The Hathaways publicly acknowledged and thanked the Judge for “showing them the right way.”
Perhaps the Judge wisely anticipated my questions regarding our own lawsuit. Yes, we based ours on the Unruh Act. Yes, we drew the judge that indeed understood this civil rights act better than anyone. Yes, we drew a compassionate and empathetic audience – he was a champion for justice.
Our conversation began with Pregerson stating that while he might hear 300 to 400 cases a year, the Olympic case of 1984 is one you do not forget. He proceeded to explain jurisprudence to me, and why judges often act very cautiously, hesitant to “upset the apple cart.” This was evident in our case. I understood even at the time — who wanted to interfere with the Olympic Committee? He confided in me that another judge “liked what he did” but still “went with the IOC.”
I had so many questions for him, all these thirty-plus years later. As I reflect on our conversation and review court documents with our IRC newsletters (the International Runners Committee), I can read between the lines to see that he was providing me answers, indeed anticipating my questions.
The very Unruh Act he spoke of was the basis of our court case. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the US Olympic Committee (USOC) are not private clubs; they are business establishments, so the Unruh Act did apply to them. As Judge Pregerson wrote in his dissent in our case:
“I do not believe the California legislature intended an athletic contest such as the Olympics, which is a major public event, should be free under California law to discriminate openly against a class of participants on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, ancestry or national origin.”
Number one, I was perplexed at the majority opinion against our appeal, two-to-three, that first, the Olympic Committee could do what they wanted as a private club, and second, that the Unruh Civil Rights Act was deemed not applicable because it addressed “integration” not “segregation” that we women runners were accused of requesting. They used the word “apartheid-like.” I felt like Alice in Wonderland. As you read this, you are probably thinking the same thing I did. I agree with Pregerson’s response. He stated that the Olympic Committee deemed the events would be run as “separate but equal” (men’s and women’s); and it was not our idea.
The International Runners Committee published newsletters (thanks to writer-editors Joe Henderson and Janet Heinonen) documenting the years of lobbying efforts and the resulting court case. The papers have provided research for many scholars and reporters over the decades since. One woman in particular, Cecile Houry, wrote her dissertation resourcing our history, and mentioned: “the difficulties encountered to add these women’s distance events into the Olympic program, including having to form an organization to lobby the IOC and IAAF, having to prove that women could physically compete in such events and having to go to court, highlight the rough situation sportswomen still faced as late as the 1980s.”
The IRC lawyer, Susan McGrievy from the ACLU, stated that this was true, “. . . until one generation of women said ‘enough, we deserve to be in the Olympics’.”
From some of the women plaintiffs –
Julie Brown said, “I’m obviously disappointed. I think that it’s something that was greatly needed. The decision is an injustice and needs to be changed.”
Kathy Hayes stated among other things . . . “It’s also ridiculous to say that track events have been added for women while none have been added for men. That’s because all the events are already being offered for men.”
Added Hayes, “It’s also obvious that the Olympic Committee uses its rules when it suits them and goes around them when they want. They win either way.”
I stated at the time: “I will always be angered that the integrity of the process was more important than the athletes. This means the world will miss seeing a number of very talented women in the ’84 Olympics. They didn’t ask Frank Shorter to wait another four years.”
The marathon was a long time coming, like I titled my book. Fortunately, the wait for the 5,000 and 10,000-meter races wasn’t as long, as I explained here earlier. The fact that we lost a battle, won the war, and served as a model for the women ski-jumpers, well, their wait was not as long either, as their event went in at 2014. All the waiting and the battling were worth it in the end.
Waiting to speak with the Judge was worthwhile too. At least he has remained active and easy to find, so I could tell him of the effects and consequences of our actions, all these years later, and thank him for his role. Our true champion for justice.
Additional notes: Ironically, I ended up working for the Amateur Athletic Foundation, which grew out of the 1984 LA Olympic Games, and is now called LA84 Foundation. Rafer Johnson is a highly active Board member there. Rafer and I happened to be honored at the same awards ceremony by the ACLU in the summer of 1984. Rafer is also the founder of the Southern California Special Olympics, where we intersected at this year’s Special Olympics 2015 World Games here in LA, and where he symbolically and appropriately enough lit the Olympic Torch once again.
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