There's a strong need for African-American women role models in distance running. An awareness of these women may lead to the growth of young girls pursuing cross country and the long distances in middle and high school, as well as encouraging women to pursue distance running to improve their health.
With this year being the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the National Black Marathoners Association (NBMA) wanted to recognize the (forgotten) accomplishments of African-American distance runners. Through highlighting and making people aware of these individuals, we created a place where role models could be found.
In a March 1, 2013 email, a writer asked for assistance in locating marathoner Marilyn Bevans to include in his upcoming book. A vast majority of runners had never heard of her. Her lack of recognition, as well of those of other African American distance runners, led to the formation of the National Black Distance Running Hall of Fame where she was inducted into the initial class in 2013 along with Ted Corbitt.
On July 14, 2016, the same writer forwarded the following email to Gary Corbitt, the NBMA Historian.
I am curious if you learned in your research about women running- if an African American [woman] ever qualified for the USA marathon trials? Also, is there a ranking list for the best times among African American women for the marathon?
Identifying the Olympic marathon qualifiers might be easy. However, identifying the best African-American women marathoners out of over fifteen million runners, dating back to the 1960's, would be almost impossible, especially since ethnicity isn’t collected on race applications. However, Gary accepted the challenge. Over the next few weeks, he researched and collected information from a variety of sources and began developing the Black Female Marathon History Project as a part of his overall running history project. This is an ongoing project as more African-American women strive to break three hours and to be added on, what has become known as, THE LIST. While this documentary was being conceived and produced, THE LIST grew from fewer than twenty to about thirty as Gary's research continued.
The NBMA board decided to recognize sub three-hour women marathoners for the 2022 National Black Distance Running Hall of Fame class. Three women in the documentary, Marilyn Bevans (2013), Ella Willis-Glaze (2017), and Alisa Harvey (2019), had previously been inducted. This new focus led to the 2022 inductions of documentary interviewees
We must recognize their accomplishments to create role models.