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Woman returns to run Boston Marathon 50 years after running in the first official women’s field

By Lisa Hughes

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    BOSTON (WBZ) — This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first official women’s field in the Boston Marathon. Eight women started and eight women finished.

One of those women is coming back this year to run again.

“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,” said Val Rogosheske.

She said at the first women’s race in Boston 50 years ago, they all sensed they were part of something special.

“It was the first year, and just the eight of us were there and huddled on that start line. There was a real feeling of excitement.”

The 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 said.

That’s exactly how Bobbi Gibb made history in 1966 as the first woman to unofficially run Boston. But in 1972, the B.A.A. 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.

“Right at Wellesley College, that first year going by there, they were like ‘right on, sister.’ It was just wonderful. Twenty-five years later I came back, and they all looked like my daughters. And now this year, they’ll look like my granddaughters.”

Fifty years ago, Val finished sixth. She returned in 1973 and ’74, setting a personal record of three hours and nine minutes.

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.

So it’s only fitting that Val will be joined on race day by two of her daughters.

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.”

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