According to Running USA’s annual State of the Sport report, women account for 8.6 million finishers in road races nationwide and make up over half of the runners who cross the finish lines of domestic races each year. It’s no wonder there has been a surge in the popularity of women-only events.
The first women-only race was the New York Mini 10K (originally the Crazylegs Mini Marathon) in 1972, the same year Title IX was enacted. The race was co-sponsored by Kathrine Switzer, who, in addition to being the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon, has been an important champion for women and girls in sport. In a time when far fewer women ran, events like the New York Mini 10K helped even the playing field.
Having since organized over 400 women’s running events, Switzer’s latest project is the 261 Women’s Marathon to be held on the island of Majorca on March 30. Named after her 1967 Boston Marathon bib number, this event is designed to empower women of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds to complete the 26.2-mile distance.
Although there is more gender equity on the road racing scene in 2014, these women-only events have persisted and grown over the decades. Indeed, more spring up each year. Not only do they provide an opportunity for women to compete, they also have proven to be ideal venues for camaraderie and kinship over a shared passion.
Whether you’re looking to race hard and set a PR or simply enjoy a morning of running with girlfriends, these are some of the best and brightest women-only races around the world.