October 1 to mark 50 years since the “Six Who Sat” at the 1972 New York City Marathon
New York, September 29, 2022 — Nina Kuscsik, a trailblazer for women’s running, will receive the Abebe Bikila Award this year, an honor which is presented each year from New York Road Runners (NYRR) to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the sport of distance running. The award will be presented to Kuscsik at NYRR’s Night of Champions during TCS New York City Marathon race week.
“I am very proud. It was such a long time ago when I was advocating for more opportunities in women’s running; it just seemed like the right thing to do,” Kuscsik said. “I attended all the meetings of the AAU in person, and I learned how to file appropriate legislation. I also had other men and women helping me so that we could get the rules changed, so myself and other women runners would have the right, and be eligible, to run marathons. It is so wonderful to see the results of it all today.”
Kuscsik transformed the sport of running by breaking through the “boys’ club” barrier to change the rules so they included women. After she ran the 1969 Boston Marathon — unofficially, as women weren’t allowed to enter — she presented a proposal to the Amateur Athletic Union, asking for an end to the ban on women entering races. The committee agreed to raise the maximum distance of AAU-sanctioned events for women from five to 10 miles and added that “certain women” could run marathons. The rules still required a separate women’s start.
On June 3, 1972, together with NYRR president Fred Lebow and Kathrine Switzer, Kuscsik helped launch the Crazylegs Mini Marathon, the world’s original women-only road race now known as the Mastercard New York Mini 10K.
Four months later, on October 1, 1972 at the New York City Marathon, Kuscsik and five other women huddled together just before the Central Park start. When the gun went off, they sat down, protesting the women’s separate-start status. After the press got their story, the women got up and started with the men’s start. Kuscsik won the race, becoming the first woman to triumph in New York and Boston in the same year. Those six women — Lynn Blackstone, Jane Muhrcke, Liz Franceschini, Pat Barrett, Cathy Miller, and Kuscsik — are known around the world today as the “Six Who Sat.” This Saturday will mark exactly 50 years since their actions changed the trajectory of women’s running for the generations that followed.
Kuscik would return to New York in 1973 to win the marathon once again, and in 1977, she completed the annual NYRR 50-Mile in Central Park in 6:35:53, an American record. She was then among the group that successfully lobbied for a women’s marathon to be added to the 1984 Olympics.