Need a little extra motivation to lace up your running shoes this morning? These nine women are sure to inspire you to get moving on the track or the treadmill. They’ve all broken records, overcome difficulties and come out running. Just like you can, too.
Kathrine Switzer: The first woman to run the Boston Marathon
Marathoners, you have Kathrine Switzer to thank for being able to tackle the Boston Marathon. She was the first woman to register and run the race in 1967, back when the entry fee was $3 and there was no gender checkbox on the form. She wasn’t welcomed by everyone, but she finished the race. It took another five years before women were allowed to officially enter.
The first American woman to win 3 gold medals in an Olympic Games
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After suffering polio and having to wear a leg brace as a child, Wilma Rudolph entered her first Olympic Games in 1956, where she won a bronze medal at the age of 16. At the next Olympic Games, she set world records in both the 100- and 200-meter dash, and brought home three gold medals — more in a single games than any American woman before her.
Amy Palmiero-Winters: Fastest female below-the-knee amputee
Photo credit: Bryan Bedder / Getty Images Entertainment / Getty images
Amy Palmiero-Winters didn’t let losing her leg in a motorcycle accident keep her from being active. Prior to the accident she had been an avid swimmer. She took up running after finding the right prosthesis. She has since gone on to smash world records in marathons and triathlons.
Olympic long-distance runner
Photo credit: Gary Gershoff/Stringer / WireImage / Getty images
One of the best ambassadors for the sport of long-distance running, Kara Goucher competed in both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics for the U.S. Also in 2008, Goucher came in third in the New York City Marathon becoming the first American woman on the podium since 1994. Goucher has worked to improve regulations for long-distance running and provides training plans on her website for everyone from running novices to experienced athletes.
The women’s marathon world record-holder
Photo credit: Tim Whitby/Stringer / Getty Images Entertainment / Getty images
Since 2003, the men’s record for the marathon has been beaten five different times. The women’s record has held steady at 2:15:25 since Paula Radcliffe set it in London. Radcliffe’s journey to the top was filled with several ups and downs, injuries and disappointing trips to the Olympic Games. But after breaking the world record at the age of 30, Radcliffe has been sitting pretty. And she has said she hopes her record remains unbroken until her daughter has the chance to shatter it.
The youngest half-marathoner… ever
You won’t find many 6-year-olds spending their time after school training for races, but that’s exactly what Keelan Glass was doing last fall. In October 2013, she became the youngest girl to complete a half-marathon — and she did it in less than three hours. Glass got her start by biking with her parents while they were training for triathlons, but it wasn’t long before she convinced her parents to let her run as well. She is definitely a runner to watch.
Oldest female marathoner
When you run your first marathon at age 86, you stand a good chance of setting the record for being the oldest woman to run a marathon. Gladys Burrill didn’t set out to break any world records as she jogged and power-walked the full 26.2 miles, but she did. And if that’s not an inspiration, we don’t know what is.
World record-holder for sprinting in the nonagenarian group
After running her first race at age 69, Ida Keeling is now the record-holder for the 60-meter race in her age group. That would be the age group that includes 96-year-olds. Keeling took to running as a sort of therapy to deal with the loss of her two sons in the early 1980s. She hopes to continue running until the ripe old age of 108.
Read about Ida’s story and watch an interview with her >>
Goals coach and cross-country (literally) runner
If you still aren’t inspired by these women (and we don’t know how you couldn’t be), Nicole Antoinette might just turn it around for you. Next year, she and her best friend Liz will run across the U.S. from California to New York. They decided last summer to tackle the 2,817-mile journey, and what’s a goals coach going to do if not follow through? We can’t wait to follow her trek.