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50 years after making history, Minnesota’s Rogosheske returns to run the Boston Marathon

Heartbreak Hill is known as the most grueling stretch of the Boston Marathon, not so much because of the incline, but because it’s so close to the end of the 26.2-mile race.

And yet, 50 years ago, as everyone around her walked up the hill, Val Rogosheske kept a bouncy step.

“We knew none of us women had better give up,” she said. “And I thought none of us better walk either.”

The Twin Cities native’s courage was rooted in the idea that what she and the other seven women were doing was historic: they were the first women allowed to run in one of the most prestigious marathons in the world. All eight women finished.

On Monday, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his historic run, Rogosheske returns to run the Boston Marathon with his daughters, Allie and Abby, and a cousin.

“We didn’t qualify. I just wrote and asked if I could bring three female relatives,” Rogosheske said, noting that Adidas provided their bibs and sponsored the women. Rogosheske is part of an honorary team racing to celebrate the top eight; she is the only one from the original group to participate this year.

“How many 75-year-olds do you know who are preparing for a marathon? Abby Rogosheske asked with a laugh.

For Val, running the Boston Marathon half a century after the historic race is a significant milestone in her life.

“I just like to revisit history and in doing so appreciate what happened and maybe my little part in it,” she said. “And this year, bringing my girls back running with me, and my cousin, is really, really meaningful.”

“Sounds pretty cool”

Val Rogosheske was a tomboy as a child, running and playing sports with neighborhood kids. But she didn’t compete in track and field because it wasn’t considered “feminine.”

There were no high school or college sports for women at the time, although she participated in athletic clubs at Edina High School and St. Cloud State. , where she majored in physical education.

“Somebody asked me how fast I could run a mile. I was there, a physical education major, and I thought, I never timed myself. And I couldn’t even finish the mile. “, she said. “It was embarrassing. That’s when I started jogging.”

She met her husband, Phil, on a blind date when Phil was returning from his army assignment for Christmas. He was a teacher and an athlete, but what seduced her were his letters. “This man knew how to write,” she said.

Within a year, they were married and Val found herself on the East Coast. So when Phil, a competitive kayaker, suggested she find a goal to help her get out and run, she set her sights on the Boston Marathon.

“I had heard of women hiding in the bushes. I thought, ‘That sounds pretty cool. I think I’ll do it,'” Val Rogosheske said.

It was just five years after Kathrine Switzer signed up as ‘KV Switzer’ to run the marathon and was assaulted by the race director – a moment captured by photographers and immortalized as a symbol of the sexism in the era of the women’s rights movement.

“Yes, we need activists. But we also need people to show up. And that’s how change happens.

Val Rogosheske

After being banned from competing, Switzer and others exhausted organizers until they finally allowed women to run the Boston Marathon in 1972 – 75 years after the marathon was created.

“I didn’t even understand how hard they were working to get us in,” said Rogosheske, now from Minneapolis. “I just showed up. … I don’t think I really realized the magnitude of the situation at that time.”

Neither did Phil, who was training for the 1972 Munich Olympics at the time. As well as pushing his wife to find a hobby she loved, he helped out by finding her running shoes, which which was no mean feat then.

Only a few companies made running shoes back then – and they were for men. He bought her a pair of Asics that now reside in a Boston museum. “They were like bedroom slippers,” Phil said. “She ran the whole marathon in these shoes.”

Val took sixth place in his inaugural race with a time of 4 hours, 29 minutes. When she returned the next two years, she took ninth place in 1973 (3:51) and eighth in 1974 with her personal best of 3:09.

In all, she ran seven full marathons, including the first-ever women-only marathon in St. Paul in 1977. While training for this race, she averaged 70 miles a week for 18 weeks.

“I was strong. I was just ready to go under three hours. And then, as life goes, 10 days before the event, I got sick. I had this very serious chest infection “, she said. “I probably shouldn’t have run at all. But I did and got another 3:14.”

Her immune system crashed and it ultimately ended her running career, although she returned to run a half marathon in Boston on the 25th anniversary of her historic run.

A year of preparation

While Val considers her first race a fluke, this year’s race has been in the works for years. She started training over a year ago and plans to alternate running and walking at 30-second intervals.

“Doing this makes me go faster, if you can believe it,” she said. “If I was just running, my running would be clumsy. It wouldn’t give me the same feeling of fluidity and balance. Now, if I only run for 30 seconds, I can feel like I used to. I can feel like if I go fast enough, I’m on the pace. And then I take 30 seconds to recover and start again.”

She and Phil have also been busy, recently moving into the same duplex as Abby so they can look after her 18-month-old child. Abby Rogosheske, 38, said she has run most of her life, largely due to her mother’s influence, although she has been running mostly recreationally, and not at all since ‘she was pregnant.

“It was a heavy task for me to prepare for this marathon,” she said. “My mum keeps saying, ‘It’s so good that you’re going at my pace to support me.’ And here I’m thinking, ‘I just want to follow you, mom.’ “

It could take Val over six hours to complete the race, which is fine with him. She said she deliberately undertrained because her main goal was to get to the start line without injury or illness.

And now, when she looks back, her stance on her historic run has evolved.

“I almost said I had just arrived. At first I felt like it was pretty pitiful,” she said. “But then I started to accept that. Yes, we need activists. But we also need people to come forward. And that’s how change happens.”

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