Though Kathrine Switzer’s historic 1967 run at the Boston Marathon is better known, a young Scottish woman named Dale Greig set the first women’s world best at the Isle of Wight Marathon three years earlier. Greig, who ran 3:27:45 that day, passed away on May 12 in her home town of Paisley. She was 81.

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Surprisingly (considering women were not supposed to run marathons), Greig was allowed to run a solo time trial at the event, four minutes ahead of the men.

Long before proving herself in the marathon, Greig was a successful track and cross-country runner, winning multiple national titles in the mile in the late 1950s and early 1960s and representing Scotland in cross-country 13 times. According to a report in The Herald, she was also a pioneer of ultra distances, often running 50 miles at a time, breaking up the distance with stops at cafés, visits with friends in neighbouring towns, and dips in lakes on her route. In 1972 she became the first woman to run the 53-mile (85K) London to Brighton ultra, which she finished in 8:30:03.

Greig also became an accomplished mountain runner on routes like the Isle of Man and Ben Nevis, paving the way for other women to tackle the distances and terrain while challenging society’s view that women should not engage in such pursuits. Greig’s success continued into her Masters years, winning the first World Masters Marathon in Paris in 1974, which also marked the first official mixed-gender marathon.

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In 1982 Greig had an unfortunate accident, breaking both heels after jumping into the shallow end of a swimming pool. She recovered, but her running did not.

Greig always insisted she wasn’t trying to make a point or to champion women’s rights, and she didn’t receive any medals. She just loved running outdoors. The London Marathon honoured her each year, and those in the know were aware of her very large contribution to women’s running.

 

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