Holding up half the big sky

In deference to those who made the original reference to “women holding up half the sky,”  I’m borrowing the phrase simply because I love the sound of it, as it aptly describes statistics showing  women are usually more than half the participants in any given road race.  Consider the most recent available statistics which report that in 2013, 2014 and 2015 women constituted 57% of running events each year, according to Running USA.

I recently traveled to participate in the Montana Women’s Run, as their keynote speaker at the pre-race dinner, and to participate in the 5-mile walk.   I really enjoyed walking among 8000 runners and walkers!  I was simply amazed at the level of participation.  8000 participants and probably 99% of them are women.   After all, it is not a women-only race, keep in mind.

So when I look into statistics kept by Running USA, I cannot really compare the Montana event to the largest all-women’s races.  However if I did, it would fit right in to the top four, between the NY Mini-Marathon (10K) at 8846 and the More/Shape Women’s Half Marathon at 7046.   As for coed races, it wouldn’t seem fair to compare it to the top contender Nike Women’s Half-Marathon either, which totals a whopping 25,100 participants.

What the Montana Women’s Run does perfectly is to support, encourage and inspire as many women as they possibly can to empower participation, be it walking or running, whether it’s two-miles or five-miles.   Their mission is to promote health and fitness, particularly for women who might not otherwise exercise.    Additionally, the organization offers clinics to help women get started in their workouts.  Plus the proceeds benefit local service providers for women.

Mayor Tom Hanley and Robin Hanley

The Women’s Run Board members consist of all women, and of the ones I met, each seems to carry their own unique story of inspiration.  All of them are highly accomplished women who motivate others by example.
I only regret not having the opportunity to meet their longtime leader, Pat Jaffray, who passed away just the month before, and who was honored throughout the entire event.  To read more:

Here is the pre-race interview conducted pre-race at station KTVQ”


Liana Susott and Family, post-race

How I came to be introduced to the Women’s Run, is entirely thanks to Coach Jay Graves, who I met in the summer of 2016 in Casper, Wyoming while coaching a World Record Track & Field Camp with founder, director Willie Banks.  Jay not only attended camp so his children could participate, and so he could grow as a coach, he also volunteered to be my assistant coach!  I am forever grateful to him for introducing me to his sister Liana Susott, a Board member of the Montana Women’s Run, who in turn brought me to the attention of her fellow Board members.  I am ever so appreciative they included me in their program.  I had an awesome experience, not only during the events, but hiking and enjoying the beauty of big sky country . . . . . . . . . It turns out women are holding up half the big sky.


Jay Graves and Family, Billings, MT

Liana and I hiking

4 Replies to “MONTANA WOMEN’S RUN”

  1. Thank you for being the special guest of the 2017 Montana Women’s Run! Your message was powerful and a great reminder of the tremendous progress in women’s distance running due to champions like you. Thank you Jacqueline!

    1. Karen,
      It was my honor and pleasure to be your guest. Everyone made me feel so welcome, like family.
      Keep up your good work with this great event. You’ll reach 10,000 very soon.

  2. Thank you so much for visiting our state! I am a good friend of the Graves family and a distance runner at Montana State University. Im extremely thankful for Jay and his constant support; he even gave me your book as a present and I loved it! I hope you had a great time in Montana! You are such an inspiration to women runners everywhere. Thanks again for your efforts, I wouldn’t be able to pursue my passion for distance running today with out all you have accomplished. You are a great role model and inspiration to us all!

    1. Thank you for kind words Morgan!
      It is young women runners like you who make all the hard work that went before all worthwhile.
      I wish you the best in your own running journey. You are fortunate to have a coach and friend in Jay Graves.
      I love Montana!

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