What began in 1980 as a one-day attempt to bring attention to women's distance running and then evolved into a three-month-long celebration, the Women's Distance Festival kicked off a nine-event stop in Maryland with the Howard County Striders' Women's Distance Festival 5K on Friday night.
Donna Moore, who finished in 17 minutes, 36 seconds, won the race that began at midnight at Columbia Mall. Sunday, Louise Kelly, 28, who finished in 17:43, won the Westminster Road Runners Club's Women's Distance Festival 5K at Union Mills. It was host of the second stop in Maryland for the series, which the Road Runners Club of America hopes will bring attention to the lack of a women's 5K in the Olympics.
The series had been created in the hope of drawing attention to the lack of a women's marathon in the Olympics. With the addition of a women's marathon to the Summer Games, the RRCA changed its focus.
"For years, the festival was held the third weekend in July," Henley Gibble, the executive director of the Road Runners Club of America, said last week. "That was the weekend [in 1980] that the men's marathon would have been held in Moscow. Of course, the U.S. didn't compete. The RRCA voted [in 1989] to have a window of times during which each club could hold its distance festival."
"I think the clubs seem to embrace them [the races]," Gibble said. "Often, they have a men's race before and the men will stay around to help with the women's race. It's a fixture now in the RRCA scheme of things. We actually have gotten a lot more sponsorship as the years have gone on."
Women's Distance Festival
The remaining races in Maryland in the RRCA's Women's Distance Festival:
* Saturday: Annapolis Striders, Annapolis, 8 a.m., (410) 268-1165.
* July 25: Montgomery County Road Runners Club, Rockville, 8 a.m., (301) 353-0200.
* Aug. 9, Baltimore Road Runners Club, Goucher College, 8 a.m., (410) 889-8208.
* Aug. 22: Prince George's Running Club, Greenbelt, 8 a.m., (301) 699-1477..
* Sept. 13: Queen City Striders, Cumberland, 8 a.m., (301) 724-2464.
* Sept. 19: Frederick Steeplechasers, Frederick, 8 a.m., (301) 663-1062.
* Oct. 10: Renaissance All- Sports Athletic Club, Bel Air, 8 a.m., (410) 836-9038.