GLORIA RATTI – A force of nature, a woman of integrity

Gloria and I no doubt met upon my winning the Boston Marathon in 1973, and on subsequent visits, although I don’t have an exact picture of the moment we first met.  I’m a California runner who rarely ever went to the east coast to race.  However, I did return to Boston on occasion, including 1978 (a speaking engagement), 1984 (to run and get my qualifying time for the Olympic Trials which is a story in itself) and for the 100th Boston Anniversary in 1996.  I also went a few times with athletes I was coaching.  Gloria has always been my advocate, mentor, role model, and dear friend.

In 2013, I was delighted to receive an invitation to return to Boston to celebrate my 40th anniversary.  The invitation came in the beautiful penmanship Gloria uniquely owns.  Nothing in my mailbox rivals a handwritten letter from Gloria.  Since Gloria plays a major role in preserving the Boston Marathon history, I am grateful that my presence was honored like Queen-for-a-Day, for a week actually.  I cherish the memories forever.   Gloria invited me to shoot the starting gun of the women’s elite race!

Since that year, I have given my best effort to return for the reunion as often as I am able.  I went for Gloria.  I loved to be with her, to follow her around and serve her however she needed me.  I can still hear her voice on my cell phone “Ratti here . . . .” and then I would follow my instructions.  That fateful day in 2013 taught me a life lesson, that no one is promised tomorrow, so hug your loved ones often.

Back in 1996, I received one of those cherished invitations to participate in the 100th Anniversary of Boston.  It came with a special surprise.  I had long been advocating for a Boston Marathon medal for not only myself, but for the few early women champions who never got one either.

It was not uncommon for road races to not have a separate medal division for women in the early days, once women gained access to entering races.  So when I won Boston —and the exact same thing happened in the WHM marathon in Culver City when I broke my first world record — well, there was a unique medal that went only to the top ten finishers overall.  Obviously, those were men. The top ten are almost always men.

Being the longest standing, continuous marathon in the world, the Boston medals are unique. They’re ranked up there with an Olympic medal.  In fact, my opinion is that a Boston medal is arguably more valuable than an Olympic medal.  The Boston marathon literally launched my entire career.

Gloria is a woman of principle and integrity, and she stands for what is just and right in the world.

On that Boston day in 1996, in great part thanks to Gloria, Guy Morse presented me, Sara Mae Berman, Bobbi Gibb, Liane Winter, Nina Kuscsik, and Miki Gorman with our long sought after medals.

I said that nothing in my mailbox rivals a handwritten letter from Gloria.  This is why I have saved her letters.  Upon reflection, re-reading them has warmed my heart.  Besides the invitations to events, there are personal thank you notes.  She expressed gratitude for receiving the shirt I wore in my 1973 win.  I have since learned that Gloria was on a mission to collect historical items for the 100th anniversary (1996) and she wrote to me, “persistence paid off,” when I sent it to her.  She wrote a thank you the time I gave her an old fashion pocket watch.  She sent her condolences when my husband passed away, and unbeknownst to me, it was for the same disease when she lost her Charlie.  These are moments to cherish and I’ll carry them in my heart always.

In closing, yes I am greatly saddened.  We all are.  Yet, I am grateful for the wonderful memories and the times we spent.  My life is richer for having known Gloria.  She left this world a better place . . . isn’t that what we all hope to do?   May she rest in peace, and may we all find solace in the memories.


Jacqueline Hansen