RIDGEFIELD, Conn. -- Boston Marathon winner Amby Burfoot celebrated women's running in a talk Monday at the Ridgefield Library, telling about 80 people about watching gold medalist Joan Benoit as she won the 1984 Olympic Marathon Trials.
"At the 3-mile mark, she broke away from the pack. I said to myself, 'You have blown your opportunity.' But when she strode into the stadium, we were all wiping tears off our faces," said Amby Burfoot, a Connecticut native who is also a Runner's World editor.
Burfoot was at the library to promote his recently released book, "First Ladies of Running: 22 Inspiring Profiles of the Rebels, Rule-Breakers, and Visionaries Who Changed the Sport Forever."
The event was sponsored by the Noreen L. Papa Mothers Live Your Life Series. Burfoot signed copies of his book, answered questions and showed videos of the runners featured in his book.
He said he wrote the book because while many of the runners featured in it have been written about individually, there are many others who many may not have heard of before.
"They were doing their thing in their hamlets and cities and towns across the country. All of them deserve to be together in a book that celebrates the pioneers of women's running," said Burfoot, who lives in Mystic.
Burfoot, who is turning 69 and won Boston in 1968, grew up at the same time as many of the runners in his book.
He talked about Julia Chase, who in 1961 ran in the Manchester 5-mile road race. "She went to the race and was told women can't run in it. It was against the rules.
"Race officials tried to block the road, but she and her friends ran around them and onto the course," Burfoot said.
Fifty years later, in 2011, Chase returned to Manchester to complete the race again, wearing the exact same college gym tunic she had worn a half-century earlier. Chase and Burfoot ran the Manchester race together on that day.
By chance, Burfoot ended up running in the Marine Corps Marathon with Oprah Winfrey in 1994. "Everyone was coming up to her during the race and patting her on the back and trying to talk to her," he said.
Ridgefield resident and triathlete Kathy McGroddy Goetz, 52, who attended the talk, said, "It was incredibly inspiring to hear of some of the less well-known early women running pioneers, their persistence and how accomplished they were in other aspects of their life.
"Amby's stories were a powerful way to highlight how much things have changed during my lifetime," she added.
"The women's running evolution is one of the biggest sports title waves in this country," Burfoot said. "These women laid the groundwork to where all women runners are today."
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.