Dust off your bunny tails and get those miniskirts ready, ladies. I’m determined to bring sexy back to the streets this June at the Oakley New York Mini 10K.
The “mini” road race, organized by the New York Road Runners and slated for Saturday, June 13, has quite a colorful history. It was the world’s first women-only road race, dating back to 1972.
Fred Lebow, then president of the NYRR Club and founder of the New York City Marathon, was approached by Johnson’s Wax. The company wanted to sponsor an all-female marathon and promote a product called Crazylegs, a pink shaving cream for women (“Run For Your Life,” 2008). Back then, the New York City Marathon was run in Central Park – four loops around and then some.
Lebow, realizing he wouldn’t be able to attract more than a handful of women to run a full marathon, decided to instead do one loop around Central Park (six miles), according to Kathrine Switzer (“Run For Your Life”), author of “Marathon Woman.”
If you have ever run in Central Park, specifically a race organized by the New York Road Runners, I highly recommend you watch “Run For Your Life” (you can stream it on Netflix). It details the life of Lebow, as well as the history of the NYRR Club and the marathon. It’s a wonderful documentary that captures many aspects of New York City in the 1970s and 80s, not to mention Lebow’s success-driven personality and passion for the club and the marathon.
Lebow was born in Romania and later came to the United States. He worked in the garment industry, and from what I gathered was a knock-off artist (“Run For Your Life”), doing “research” at high-end boutiques and then knocking off the styles of clothing for less.
After founding the marathon in 1970, Lebow came up with and enthusiastically promoted the Crazylegs Mini-Marathon, which started and finished at Tavern on the Green.
Why a “mini” race, you ask? “… Because mini skirts were in fashion at the time and Fred was in the garment business,” Switzer says in “Run For Your Life. ” ‘Let’s call it a mini,’ he said. ‘That has a real cache for women.’ ” Plus the race was not a full marathon, thus a “mini” marathon, one that would hopefully attract more women.
Life was very different for women in 1972. The movie touches briefly on the role society created for women, who weren’t expected to do any type of physical activity, let alone run six miles. They were caretakers and homemakers. Why on earth would any woman want to run a road race? But that was then, and today is a different story, for the most part.
You’re probably wondering where the Playboy Bunnies come into play, right?
According to Switzer in the film, “Fred was afraid they wouldn’t get enough publicity for it,” so he went to the Playboy Club and convinced some Bunnies to not only promote the race, but also to do publicity for it! “That was Fred. He wanted the race to be successful for women. If it took [Playboy] Bunnies to do that, he was going to do that,” Switzer said (“Run For Your Life”).
Note: After doing some additional research, I read in a “Running Times” article that while Lebow got some Playboy Bunnies to show up “dressed to run, … [there is] no record of the Bunnies finishing.” Here is another piece from “Running Times” about the Mini 10K.
The first Mini-Marathon saw 1,000 entries, was the largest road runner event in the world at the time, and was generally seen as a great success (“Run For Your Life”). Today, the race is a Mini 10K, 6.2 miles.
Before watching “Run For Your Life,” I was under the impression that the race was “mini” because women wore miniskirts “back then” and they were fashionable. I had no idea how much significance this road race had on the history of women’s running in America.
The Mini still holds significance today. I’m quite proud to be running it this year (and with an amazing group of female athletes from my gym, none the less). I hope this begins a tradition for myself and other women close to me. Women should be proud of who they are, both inside and out. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating exterior beauty and the power of the derriere (oh those bunny tails). But let’s not forget that it’s often a woman’s strength (both inner and outer), her bold drive and determination, and her lust for life that make her most beautiful.
Ladies, will you be running the Oakley New York Mini 10K with me? Now, to figure out what to wear…