In 1970 when I started running there were very few opportunities for women runners to compete at longer distances. We could run the 880 and the mile, but not much further. In cross country it was often 2 or 2.5 miles, but that was about the longest most of us had the opportunity to run unless we ran in local road races. My first year of running was spent going to road races around the New England area. I was welcomed by my fellow male runners, but often not by race promoters or race officials. Often I was allowed to start but not officially finish, or I had to sneak into a race and hope I wasn't spotted. For those races that we were allowed to participate in, there was often no prizes for the women's division. If there were prizes they were often smaller or less expensive versions of the men's prize. In some races we were given prizes that were specifically geared towards women, such as the silver tea set Doris Heritage was given after setting a world record in the mile in Canada, or the miniature dolls chair I was given at the Gardner Road Race when the men got regular chairs. Often the very act of starting a race was seen as a protest. Showing up to run was a threat to the race organizers and it became our way of pushing for change. The world was changing so rapidly for women in the late sixties and early seventies, and distance running was a part of that larger social and cultural revolution. It also was our way as women of making an impact on the male dominated sport's world. Besides being a competitive athlete, trying to force change in the world of sports, made running my passion.
When I first started to think about this film I knew I wanted to do a documentary about women runners. The stories of my experiences in the early seventies as a new runner seemed to be a good place to start. In talking with Doris Heritage, the other character in the film, I began to be curious about her running that took place in the late fifties, sixties and seventies. How did they differ from mine and how were they similar?
What drove both of us to run even though it was not easy to be a women runner during this time period? How did her experiences compare with mine, and then how did our experiences compare with the experiences of a young women runner today? By choosing Camille Connelly, a young cross country runner from the Seattle area, and following her season, I was able to compare and contrast Doris and my experiences with this young women's.
After I had collected the stories, and documented Camille's cross country season, I had to find a way to weave these wonderful stories and images together. After thirteen rewrites of the script (a documentary script is often written after the film is shot) I finally began to put together the voices and images on my computer with the digital program Final Cut Pro. It was an amazing experience to finally have a "film". Even though it would take me another two years to finish "Run Like A Girl", I felt as though I could finally call myself a filmmaker. It was an exhilarating experience.