Until the 1970s women were barred from participating in marathons in the USA. The running world was dubbed the “Boys Club”. According to Nina Kuscsik “They said our uteruses would fall out”.
Nina Kuscsik is a pioneer. She advocated for rule changes in the sport of running so that women could be included.
Born in 1939, Nina competed in cycling and skating in her youth. It was a $1 copy of Bill Bowerman’s instructional book “Jogging” that inspired Nina to become a runner.
Nina trained for, and ran in, the 1969 Boston Marathon. She was listed as an unofficial runner because women were not allowed to enter. Her finish time did not appear in the results. This sparked Nina’s desire to spearhead a movement.
Nina attended the Amateur Athletic Union’s annual conference in 1971 where she presented a proposal for an end to the ban on women. The committee agreed to allow “certain women” to run, but still required a separate women’s start.
Along with seven other women, Nina ran under the new AAU rules for the 1972 Boston Marathon. Her time of 3:10:26 was officially recorded. This made Nina the first female champion.
On June 3, 1972 the first all-women’s road race was founded. A few months later, at the 1972 New York City Marathon, Nina and five other women protested women’s separate-start status. The story went to press and the ladies resumed their run. Nina and runner Pat Barrett finished all four and a half loops of Central Park. Nina was the first woman to complete marathons in New York and Boston in the same year.
At the 1972 AAU convention, Nina continued to advocate on the behalf of women. Her lawyer demanded that the “separate but equal” starting line requirement be taken off the books. Nina won the case and the rule was dropped.
Now, at age 77, Nina has completed 80 marathons.