Distance Festival a celebration of women

The Women's Distance Festival, founded by Diane Sherrer and Lorrie Tily, was held in Dryden on July 12. On a stifling summer night, 140 participants came to compete, to remember and to celebrate.

Forty years after the passage of Title IX, race directors Sue Aigen and Chris Irving reflected on the historical importance of the Women's Distance Festival. For these seasoned runners who remember when women were thought "too delicate" for high-mileage running, there is a great satisfaction in watching the sinewy young runners with competitive glints in their eyes line up with the equally competitive mamas and grandmas.

And there is great satisfaction in noting the many professional contributions of the female running community. Both Aigen and Irving have accomplished careers, and the Aigen Financial Group and Irving and
Associates were proud sponsors of this Finger Lakes Runners Club event.

Former Trumansburg High standout Sarah Danner racked up yet another summer win on the challenging course, finishing in 19 minutes, 30 seconds. The competition was intense with Murphee Hayes just one second behind. The 38-year-old Hayes -- 20 years Danner's senior -- is a fierce competitor who always runs tough. The director of athletics, health, and physical fitness at Whitney Point, Hayes is known throughout the area for her athletic prowess as well as her exquisite coaching of Whitney Point athletes. Helen Doyle (19:38) came in third, while the powerful Becky Harman added yet another masters win to her many accomplishments.

Audrey Balander and her daughter, Jackie Hoch, won the mother-daughter division. Jackie is a familiar face at area races, where she often accompanies her mom. Jill Winke-Wade, from Addison, ran with her 11 year old daughter, Paige. They had left the "men folk" -- dad and two brothers -- at home and relished a rare opportunity to spend time together.

Sandy Folzer, at 72, was the oldest competitor in the event. A retired professor
of behavioral health, Folzer is also devoted to environmental protection. She ran her first race, the Philadelphia Marathon, in 1975 and has never looked back. Folzer is the mother of three daughters and was a dear friend of Sherrer's, and the Women's Distance Festival holds special meaning to her.

Tia Heneghan raised her arms in victory as she crossed the finish line of the hilly course on the hot humid evening. Visiting from Denver, this company president tried valiantly to stay up with the youngest competitor -- 4-year-old Anneke Ryan.

After the race, 8-year-old Dot Hamilton and 9-year-old Kayla Markwardt breathed
in the beautiful roses awarded by Syracuse's Lennie Tucker to all first-tie participants and girls younger than 12. Tucker, 73, a retired elementary school
teacher, is revered in the world of education and running -- she's the author
of "The Teacher's Voice" and an accomplished ultra-runner. She has long
dreamed of an indoor running facility to counter Syracuse's winter weather. With
Tucker as one of the visionaries, groundbreaking for Felder Stadium is
scheduled for autumn 2014.

It was a long road to Title IX -- which celebrated its 40th anniversary a month
ago -- and the inclusion of women in the world of sports. The advocacy of women's running by visionaries such as Sherrer, Tily, Aigen, Irving and Tucker has paved the road for the Dot Hamiltons and Kayla Markwardts of our community. Running with their mothers on a tough course on a stifling summer night, the young girls were pleased but matter-of-fact about their

They expect to be participating in all ofife's races. Thanks to our community's
forerunners, they surely will be.

Marie Fitzsimmons is The Journal's running columnist. Her column appears
weekly; she can be reached at


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