On June 3, 1972, the six-mile Crazylegs Mini Marathon took place in Central Park, with 72 participants—a huge number at the time. California teenager Jacqueline Dixon bolted off the starting line in pursuit of a couple of Playboy bunnies who’d been hired to generate publicity. The bunnies hopped off the course and Dixon went on to win in 37:02, nearly a minute ahead of the rest of the field.
All this is true, as is the fact that “Mini” was a reference to the miniskirt and Crazylegs was the name of a women’s shaving gel. Another fact: Three weeks after the first Mini, Title IX was signed into law, guaranteeing women the right to participate in school sports and creating new opportunities for generations of female athletes.
Participation in the Mini grew rapidly, reaching an astonishing 1,894 finishers in 1977 and 4,118 in 1979. To date, more than 200,000 women have crossed the Mini finish line, from Olympic medalists and world record-holders to women of all ages and fitness levels, many running their first race. Since 2016, the Mini has included a race for girls, now known as the Rising New York Road Runners at the NYRR New York Mini 10K. In 2018, it added a professional wheelchair division. This year, for the first time, it served as the USATF 10K Championship for women.
More than 200 women have finished the Mini 15 or more times. I’m one of them—we’re called Crazylegs. I ran my first Mini when I was in college in the early 1980s. When I moved to NYC a few years later, I joined a women’s running team after a chance encounter with a runner friend at the Mini. From then through the mid-1990s I ran the Mini almost every year, placing as high as 9th and once finishing as the top American. Since 2001 I’ve missed only one Mini. This year was number 29.
Before this year’s Mini, the Crazylegs gathered for a photo at the start line. We smiled and hugged and bantered about our stiff knees and ever-slowing finish times. We commented on the warm weather—It’s June, it’s hot, it must be time for the Mini!”
The attachment to the Mini runs deep. “It was my first-ever road race, so it means the world to me,” said Robin Venick, who ran her 27th Mini today. “I will always run it.”
Anne Halpern cherishes the Mini as well. “It was the first 10K I ever ran, in 1987, and it was my entrée into New York City running,” said the longtime member of New York Flyers. “It’s very special. Today was number 21. At this point, I will never give it up.”
“There used to be a Mini 5K tune-up a few weeks before the Mini, and one year I did that and then the Mini 10K. Those were my first races,” said Ruth Liebowitz, 77, who completed Mini #34 today. “Do I love this race? Of course—otherwise I would not be out here early on a Saturday morning! I will keep doing it as long as I can.”
Some finishers today ran with family members—sisters, as well as mothers and their daughters and even granddaughters, passing the Mini tradition to the next generation. Sofia Hedstrom took the commitment of sharing the Mini with family especially to heart, as she ran the race eight months pregnant with her first child, a daughter due in July. “I thought it was very fitting to run this race with another woman inside of me,” said Hedstrom.
I felt gratitude as I ran today—for this race and its incredible history of celebrating and empowering women, for Title IX and all that it’s done for women athletes and as a powerful symbol of the rights of females everywhere to be healthy and fit and to transfer the grit and determination that they gain from sports to all areas of their lives. I felt gratitude for the 200,000+ Mini finishers since 1972 who share all the joys that running brings them. May we all keep running this race for many years to come!