The Power Of Role Models – by Ian Parnell

When Kathy Switzer entered the Boston Marathon in 1967 she used her first name initial knowing that women were not allowed to run the race. At that time many of those in positions of power thought women incapable of distance running -

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

When Kathy Switzer entered the Boston Marathon in 1967 she used her first name initial knowing that women were not allowed to run the race. At that time many of those in positions of power thought women incapable of distance running – some even repeated the 19th century medical myth that a women’s uterus would be damaged by running. In the Olympics not only were women not able to run the marathon, no other distance events were available, with 800m the longest distance run in women’s athletics. During the actual Boston race Switzer was grabbed by race officials trying to eject her from the event. Pictures of her Syracuse teammates defending her from the attacks, enabling her to complete the race, filled the next day’s newspapers and set forth a revolution in women’s running. In 1984 Switzer was part of the successful lobbying group that persuaded the Olympics to finally include the marathon in the Los Angeles games. Today that revolution is continuing at a pace, with increasingly more women runners taking part in events than men (57% of US road race finishers in 2015 were women).

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In the UK during 2015 women’s participation in marathon increased by 12% whilst men’s decreased by 13%. The impact of role models isn’t always as measurable as the influence Kathy Switzer has had on the running revolution. Often it can be on a much more personal individual level. When we produced a series of films for The Climbing Hangar it was evident that for many of the climbing wall’s members, young and old, male and female, that watching World Cup Champion Shauna Coxsey was very motivating. Similarly when we worked with Paralympian hand biker Karen Darke on our film Impossible, as she tackled an Ironman triathlon in Portugal, the level of inspiration for all around her was electric.I f we had to choose the most rewarding aspect of what we do it would almost certainly be the chances we get to work with so many different, amazing characters. As well as helping them share and promote their message, we also find ourselves inspired. This year looks set to be an exciting one for us at LWimages, with some great projects involving many unique and talented people, we’re hoping that we can help them become some of the best role models of 2017.

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