Like many women, I was raised that I should be a good girl (I may have mentioned this before). This does not always work for me. I prefer the thinking, “Well-behaved women rarely make history” and I get real excited when I meet members of that mischievous tribe.
I met one this weekend, or was reintroduced, while reading The New York Times Sunday Magazine’s The Lives They Lived, my absolute favorite end-of-the-year publication. There was an article on Grete Waitz, the record-breaking Norwegian marathon runner. I remembered her name, but couldn’t recall her achievements, until I saw her instantly recognizable face and read these opening lines:
Line them up side by side, the New York City Marathon victory photos: nine of them, 1978 to 1988, the most comic and elegant rebuke to generations of harrumphing athletic directors who insisted that no woman could safely run 26.2 miles. When Grete Waitz was born, in Norway in 1953, that was the received wisdom. Too exhausting, too competitive, too damaging to the delicate female organs, too . . . unwomanly.
Hear Me Roar
So, how great is that? Not only did she say, “Actually a woman can run 26.2 miles, let me show you,” but she also said, “let me show you by winning the New York City Marathon nine times and setting 10 world records.” Now, athletes always inspire me because I am not an athlete and my Southern hometown had the same approach to women in sports as Norway (who knew?). While Grete Waitz was training for her marathons, I was a dancero in high school, wearing boots and crinlons. But whether you’re an athlete, artist, or banker, her story is inspiring whatever your gender. Make sure to read the article — two other amazing women are mentioned who paved the way for Grete Waitz.
And there’s another great piece, A First Time for Everything, about ordinary people accomplishing the extraordinary — overcoming society’s expectations, small step by small step. Actually, the whole “The Lives They Lived” issue is not to be missed.
As I head into the New Year with some daunting projects ahead of me, I’m jazzed to have examples of people who didn’t listen to the “shoulds” of their time.
Do you have similar inspirational examples? Please share them! Now, let’s all go make a little history. Here’s some words from Grete Waitz to get us going: