Editor’s Note: Val Rogosheske finished the Boston Marathon today, 50 years after she was one of the first eight women to officially run the marathon. The 75-year-old, wearing the bib number “1972,” crossed the finish line accompanied by her daughters, who were holding signs that let everyone know just who their mother was.
“In ’72 I kept running the whole way while people around me were walking. This time I was walking while other people were running,” Rogosheske said.“When you think about it, I mean 50 years is a long time but there’s been so much progress, it makes it seem short.”
“Just the eight of us were there and huddled on that start line. There was a real feeling of excitement,” recalls Valerie Rogosheske of the day 50 years ago when women were first allowed to run the Boston Marathon. She and seven others completed the 26.2 miles in April 1972—Rogosheske with a smile on her face.
In a couple of weeks, Rogosheske will be on the starting line again, this time surrounded by 14,000 other women set to complete the course, including her daughters Abigail and Allie.
“I am so looking forward to returning to Boston this year with my daughters to celebrate 50 years of women being welcomed into the Marathon,” Rogosheske, who lives in Minnesota, told a Boston TV station recently. “In 1972, the students at Wellesley yelled ‘Right on, sista!’ On the 25th anniversary the students looked like my daughters, and this year they could be my granddaughters! I celebrate the progress through the generations as women claim their places on the start line.”
Getting Back to Boston
“I’m sort of a historian, herstorian, I’ve been going through photo books and I thought, boy, this 50th anniversary. I would like to do that,” says Rogosheske.
The 75-year-old Minnesota native had just started running after graduating from St. Cloud State with a physical education degree. Her husband encouraged her to set a goal so that she’d keep up with her training. “The only race I’d ever heard of was the Boston Marathon and I’d read that women would hide in the bushes and then jump in. So I thought that sounded like a good idea,” she says.
In 1972, the students at Wellesley yelled ‘Right on, sista!’
That’s exactly how Bobbi Gibb made history in 1966 as the first woman to unofficially run Boston. But in 1972, the Boston Athletic Association, which manages the race, was ready to welcome its first official women’s field.
“If I’m totally honest, there was a little tiny part of me that was sort of disappointed to know that we were going to be welcome because my mindset was kind of focused on hiding,” said Rogosheske. Val gives all the credit to her fellow runners that year for getting them to the start line.
“Kathrine Switzer and Sara Mae Berman and Nina Kuscik won that year. Those three had been working for about eight years to make sure women could get in, legally into the marathon. So I can imagine just how fulfilled they felt,” she said. “I don’t know if this was spoken at the start line, or if it was just my idea about it but I just knew that none of us were going to drop out. None of us were going to walk even.”
Rogosheske remembers feeling only support from the male runners, as well as the crowds along the course. Fifty years ago, Val finished sixth. She returned in 1973 and ’74, setting a personal record of three hours and nine minutes.
The Running Life
Running had become a way of life, not just for Val, but for her young family as well. “I’d say ‘momma’s going to run up and down the street now, and you behave. If you need me, just step outside the door.’ Even from a young age, they knew that was an important part of our life,” said Rogosheske.
I just keep thinking about the cycle of life, and how things have improved.
What used to be a 70-mile a week training is down to three days a week. Val also plans to alternate running and walking on race day—whatever it takes to reach the finish line again.
“I just keep thinking about the cycle of life, and how things have improved. That first year there were eight of us, this year there are over 14,000 women. It just is kind of mind-boggling to see the difference.”