I am reposting this on July 13, 2017. This was originally posted May 3, 2017, from Doha, Qatar.
I wanted more people to realize just how far the women’s steeplechase has come. I watched fine steeples in Doha, Eugene, and Paris this year. The quality and the global nature of the event is what is exciting. Great runners like Ruth Jebet, teenager Celliphine Chespol, Beatrice Chepkoech, Hyin Kiyeng, and Emma Coburn will battle for the medals in London.
This story is about the origins of the women’s steeplechase and how some were not supportive of the early event. Just another example of the evolution of global women’s distance running and the uncertian pace of that evolution. The goal of this article is to provide some perspective.
This is a fun picture of Collee Quigley, Courtney Freirichs, Aisha Praught Leer and Emma Coburn, four of my absolute favorite steeplers in the know universe. The steeplechase is an athletics event that is rife with tradition. Yet, it was not too long ago that the women’s steeplechase was just beginning and we took some hassles for putting Carla Borovicka, a fine US runner, on the cover of our publication, American Athletics, in the Fall of 1990 (renamed American Track & Field in 1994).
Both editor, Christine Johnson and I firmly agreed on the cover for the Fall Winter 1990 issue. We were struggling, as all new magazine publishers do, but with 40,000 free subscribers, we had an audience and we were filled with love of the sport, if not, money. We recieved a note from a prominent American coach who noted our cover with a women steepler. He queried if our next move would be to put an American woman pole vaulter on the cover. Remember, this was 1990!
The steeplechase for women had been run in the Eastern bloc, former partners of the Soviet Union, for a few years. American coaches picked it up and began to put some of their fine athletes into the event. But change in our sport takes time. Truth is, the acceptance of the women’s pole vault and steeplechase came much faster than many women’s events. Remember, from 1928 until 1972, the longest event for women was the 800 meters!
Change is not linear. Some people fear change. Carla Borovicka was one of the pioneers in the steeplechase. She was coached by the late Dick Brown, and was a fine cross country and middle distance runner. Hww did our cover affect people in 1990? I have posted the cover here, plus provided a link to piece from May 2013 and the Middlebury Sports Magazine on the steeplechase. Funny how things change.
To read the story from Middlebury Sports, please go to: https://middleburycampus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Full-Magazine.pdf and read the story, Barriers. It is the story of how pioneers in the steeple event for women came to find inspiration, coaching and an event that gave them life.
On Friday night, we will be able to watch many of the finest women steepleers in the world compete in Doha Diamond League. I am not sure that Carla Borovicka, the women shown on our long tattered cover had ever been to Doha, but I will be sitting in the stands, smiling, as I watch one of the most popular events in our sport, the women’s steeplechase. And to think, less than 25 years ago, it was the focus of long notes to the Editor.
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