Elderly athletes running the marathon offer a barometer of what is possible in physical aging. Gender, however, has a strong influence on one’s chances in the marathon race, just as it has on the manner and pace with which one navigates the marathon of life. This article looks at the obstacles that women, especially older women, have had to overcome in order to compete in the marathon race. It explores the ways that gender has limited their real and perceived opportunities in pursuing strenuous sports and shows how male–female dichotomies have been used historically to perpetuate patriarchal views on the ways women could and should use their bodies. Finally, it illustrates how feminist inquiry and methods of analysis can help us understand why aging women in the past have more often been seen as “eternally wounded” than as special candidates for sporting excellence in later life.
The author is with the Department of Educational Studies at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver V6T 1Z1, Canada.