Dr. Joan’s Sports Psych Talk: “Legal since 1971 – 40th!” (celebrating women in the Dipsea!)
Dr. Joan’s Sports Psych Talk-
A historic event is about to take place.
The 100th running of the second oldest footrace in the country, The Dipsea Race!
This may be the 100th running for the men but it is only the 40th legal and official running for the women. In speaking with friends of mine, Mary Kitchens and Martha Cederstrom (both former ultrarunners), we began talking about the Dipsea Race and the history of women in the event. They are both running in the 100th and were especially curious about womens’ role in the race. Women only became legal participants in the race beginning in 1971. This was the year the AAU opened long distance running to women. Remarkably, two years after women were admitted, a young and talented 10-year-old girl, Mary Etta Boitano, won in 1973 with the gender and age handicaps in place.
The story begins much earlier going back to the early twentieth-century to 1918 when the first Dipsea Women’s Hike was held. My friend, Mary Kitchens, got particularly interested in and inspired by the Dipsea Hike history when speaking with Barry Spitz, author of Dipsea: The Greatest Race. She learned from Barry that the Hikes were held from 1918 to 1922. The most famous woman of the Dipsea Hikes was Emma Riemann. People still believed women were the weaker sex but Emma, full of courage, independence, and strength, served as a true athletic pioneering woman. The courage and adventurousness she demonstrated were rare qualities for women of her time, and Emma provided a role model for the suffragette movement. Emma participated in four of the five hikes. What’s even more remarkable was Emma placing 2nd in 1919 and 1920 and winning in 1921 and 1922. In 1922, she set a course record of 1:12:06 that would not be broken until 1969 in an unofficial capacity. She exuded confidence, optimism, and mental fortitude. According to historian Susan Cahn, she expressed to reporters at her win in 1922 that she hoped the hike would be “continued for many years to come”. Unfortunately despite no women getting hurt at these hikes, most appeared perky, and some even going for a swim at the finish, these Hikes were cancelled. According to Spitz, they ended due to physician’s fears of the women damaging their reproductive organs and because of protests from local church groups.
Mary (shown at left), an enthusiastic Drake High teacher and former clown, created the idea of celebrating both the 100th running and the 40th women’s “running” of the race. In finding a way to honor these early pioneers, Mary and Martha’s concept is to remind us all of the short-lived and much appreciated participation of women in sports that were formerly solely men’s venues. This will be done by wearing t-shirts that read “Legal since 1971 – 40th.” Mary will be outfitted in the clothing of the era of the Dipsea Women’s Hikes. She created, and will be wearing a reproduction of Emma Riemann’s outfit. She and Martha are putting together a silk screen for the t-shirts. Her hope is to encourage other women to bring her t-shirts that she will silk screen with the motto, “Legal since 1971 – 40th” to wear in the Dipsea race.
If interested, you can contact her by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Photo credits: historical photo courtesy of The Dipsea Foundation; photo of Mary Kitchens provided by Dr. Joan Steidinger)
Dr. Joan Steidinger is a sports and clinical psychologist with offices in Mill Valley and San Francisco. She has been practicing sports psychology with clients ranging from recreational to pro athletes for the past 17 years.
As an athlete herself, she has been a competitive ultrarunner, Ride & Tie competitor, and ultradistance cyclist.