By Freddi Carlip
Marty Cooksey…Julie Brown…Nancy Conz…Grete Waitz…Joan Benoit Samuelson…Lorraine Moller…Lynn Jennings…names that have passed my lips in reverent, awed tones.
Some women dream of becoming the next Cindy Crawford or Claudia Schiffer. Not me (I’m too short anyway). I dream, however farfetched the dream, of becoming the next Julie or Marty or Joan or Grete or Lynn. I want to run with the ease and speed, grace and beauty of these gifted athletes.
When I run, I push myself, hoping to finish as first woman in the races I enter, just as they have. Hoping to have the kick, the guts, the determination to outrun my competitors, just as they have.
For any success that I’ve had as a runner, these women, my heroes, gave me the incentive to test my limits.
Although they were my constant inspiration, I never figured that I’d have the opportunity to run with them–never in my wildest dreams.
Never say never!
Let’s add a few more names to the list: Cheryl Collins, Yuko Arimori, Valentina Yegorova, Joyce Smith, Kathrine Switzer–once and future stars in running’s firmament.
Call Kathrine my fairy godmother: It’s because of her, and the new Avon Global Women’s Circuit, that my dream did in fact come true. As RG’s editor, I was invited to the September 4 (1997) press conference where the Avon circuit was announced. Karthrine was gracious enough to invite me to stay with her and her husband, Roger Robinson.
After the press conference, Kathrine and I changed into running clothes, proudly displaying our “Avon Running” shirts, and headed to Central Park for a photo shoot with what I would later refer to as my “Dream Team.”
Let’s revisit that Thursday afternoon–a picture-perfect day, with brilliant sun and warm temperatures.
[Scene I] Dream Team is assembled. The video guys want the women to run as a group on the grass. Next thing I know, Kathrine tells me to join in.
Who me? Bingo–I joined them in a New York minute. Soon I was running with my Dream Team in Central Park and being videotaped, to boot…two takes!
I ran next to Grete and Joan. We laughed and joked as if we’d known each other for years I don’t think my feet touched the ground the whole way.
[Scene ll] Dream Team has formal group shots taken. I just happened to have my camera too, and I snapped away.
[Scene lll] The photographer wants the Dream Team to run along the sidewalk as he roller skates backwards, taking pictures as they run toward him. Again Kathrine tells me to join the group. Again I don’t hesitate (I don’t even think, Who me? this time). Kathrine tells me to get in the front (given that I’m diminutive).
And there I was, leading my Dream Team, Marty Cooksey at my shoulder, my shoulder, being photographed for posterity.
A cover girl (and centerfold too) gracing the pages of Outlook, Avon’s corporate publication with my Dream Team.
Who said dreams don’t come true?
From Freddi: I wrote this article in September 1997, after having one of the most memorable running experiences of my life. It appeared in RG and also in the RRCA’s Boom: Forty Years of Running and Writing. I can think of no better tribute to Grete Waitz, who died April 19, 2011, than to share “Dream Team” again. Grete was my earliest inspiration as I began my running career. I met Grete several times after running with her. Each time she was warm and gracious.
All of the women mentioned in this article are inspiring. Think back to the days when women weren’t welcome at Boston or there was no marathon for women in the Olympics. These are the women who helped make it happen. I am so very grateful and very honored to know them.
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