Sweating isn't feminine. That's just one of the goofy myths about women that for centuries helped keep them out of competitive sports in America.
But, once women runners were allowed on the track, they went a long way, baby. Women's sports have evolved at an astonishing rate, especially since Congress passed the law commonly called Title IX that bans sex discrimination at schools receiving federal funds.
West Jordan's Jacki Dixon is just one example of women athletes who've gone the distance over the past four decades. Dixon loved running and began adding distance to her runs when she was just 12 years old. Last week she traveled to New York City to help celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first Crazylegs Mini race, the first women's long-distance race in the country.
At age 17, Dixon won the six-mile competition in its inaugural year. She was among millions of young women who, at the time, had few if any outlets for their competitive urges. She entered long-distance races in the late '60s and early '70s as "Jack Dixon" when women were not allowed to compete. And she continued to run as the passage of Title IX opened the world of sports competition to women.
Dixon broke the 5-minute mile at San Jose State University, but distance running was her passion. She overcame the myth that women's bodies were too fragile for endurance racing; scientific research has since proven that women, in general, are physically better able to endure distance than men.
The Utah runner was embarking on a quest to become one of the first women to complete a marathon in the Olympics when she was stopped by a heart condition. Given two years to live in 1984, she is still going strong today and was to be in New York City for the 40th anniversary of the Crazylegs Mini on Saturday, when 8,000 women were scheduled to participate.
The opportunity to compete in sports arguably has done more to open doors for women in America than anything since women's suffrage finally gave women the right to vote in 1920. The law continues to be controversial, and vestiges of discrimination remain, but it helps girls and women gain confidence, learn to respect their bodies and communicate in a language spoken by men in all areas of professional life.
Women now understand what it means to be a "team player," to "score points" with the boss, to "run interference" on a project or "hit it out of the park" in landing an account.
The playing field is not yet level, but Title IX has taken out a lot of the bumps.