Gasparilla Distance Classic Gasparilla Distance Classic
           be healthy • get more fit • race faster
Enter email to receive e-newsletter:
Join us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter

"All in a Day’s Run" is for competitive runners, fitness enthusiasts and anyone who needs a "spark" to get healthier by increasing exercise and eating more nutritionally.

Click here for more info or to order

This is what the running elite has to say about "All in a Day's Run":

"Gary's experiences and thoughts are very entertaining, all levels of runners can relate to them."
Brian Sell — 2008 U.S. Olympic Marathoner

"Each of Gary's essays is a short read with great information on training, racing and nutrition."
Dave McGillivray — Boston Marathon Race Director

Skip Navigation Links

Nina Kuscsik — June, 2013
Nina Kuscsik is best known for winning the 1972 Boston Marathon, the first in which women officially competed. This women’s distance running pioneer also won the New York City Marathon in 1972 and 1973, the Yonkers Marathon seven times and over a dozen other marathons. From 1970 to 1973 Nina raced 18 marathons, winning 14 times and placing second in the other four races. In 1972 she won all seven marathons she raced. Nina’s activism was instrumental in adding the women’s marathon to the Olympic Games. She was initially inspired by Roger Bannister running the first sub-4:00 mile, but didn’t start running seriously until over a decade later when she was in her twenties and read Bill Bowerman’s book, ‘Jogging.’ Nina was part of a historic day when she finished second to Beth Bonner at the 1971 NYC Marathon as they were the first two women to run a sub-3:00 marathon. In 1977 she ran a World Record 50-mile in 6:35:53. That same year she ran her personal best marathon of 2:50:22, finishing third at the Women’s National Marathon in Minnesota. Nina was the first woman finisher at the 1991 Empire State Building climb. Before she started running, she was the New York State women's champion in speed skating, roller-skating and bicycling all in same year. She has been inducted into several Halls of Fame including the RRCA HOF, National Distance Running HOF and NYRR HOF. Nina has presented running clinics throughout the U.S., written training articles for Runner's World and many other publications and was a commentator for running events and training with 1010 WINS and CBS Radio, New York. She is a retired registered nurse and resides in New York. Nina was very gracious in spending 90 minutes on the telephone for this interview.
GCR:For anyone under the age of 40 or 45, it is difficult to fathom the difference in sporting opportunities that girls and women had in the 1950s. Didn’t Roger Bannister’s running the first sub-four minute mile give you some initial interest in running?
NKIn 1954 Roger Bannister broke the 4:00 mile and so I road my bicycle to this running track and it was all locked up. There was a three-tier cyclone fence and I climbed over the fence. I ran one lap and did it in 85 seconds. I wasn’t a runner so I didn’t really know anything about running. I was just so impressed that he broke the 4:00 mile. I thought, ‘Wow!’ He had run 25 seconds faster than me and done four laps at that pace. But I didn’t have any type of running prospects and didn’t have the opportunity to do running as a sport in those days.
GCR:What types of activities and sports did you engage in as a teenager that set the foundation for your later interest in running?
NKMy brother was nine years younger than me and was interested in the shot put and heard about a women’s track team. We found out they practiced in Queens and my girlfriend and I hitched a ride there. The coach told us that if we came back the next week they would provide us with some running shoes. We thought that would be great, but the next week we couldn’t get a ride. It wasn’t like our parents took us places. Mothers stayed home and fathers worked. I was never involved in organized running. I played YMCA basketball and was lucky as we played with men’s rules. We played street games in Brooklyn - ringolevio, stoop ball, step ball, punch ball, slap ball and stick ball. The boys and girls played together.
GCR:Wasn’t your first real competitive sport roller speed skating? How did you get involved in that sport and what other sports did you gravitate toward?
NKThere were four older girls and four younger girls in our group which included my older sister. The older girls went roller skating one night and afterward they saw a speed skating session. When they came home they told me that I would probably like that. So one of the younger girls and I went and watched a speed skating session, we thought it was great and we wanted to do that. So I became a speed skater. To get back and forth most of the time I had to hitchhike In 1957 we drove across the country to San Francisco for the national championships at the Cow Palace. I had been to Ohio before that for another competition. Next I became a bike racer. There was an 800 meter bike track in Flushing Meadow, Queens from the 1939 World’s Fair which is where the first Shea Stadium was built a few years later. I was told about and joined a German bicycle club along with another roller skater and when I started one guy’s father gave me a racing bike which was great as I only had a regular bike for riding around. There was no coasting, no brakes, no gears and that is what they used for track races. I also used it for some road races.
GCR:You started working as a nurse at a relatively young age. How did you complete the schooling while you were so young and then how did it mesh with your bike training?
NKI was always ahead in school as they kept pushing me. In second grade I did 2A and skipped 2B. Then in junior high I went two years instead of three years. So I graduated from high school when I was sixteen and a half years old. I went to a two year nursing program at Brooklyn College and graduated when I was eighteen and a half years old. There were a few of us who were 18 and they told us we couldn’t get our licenses because we had to be twenty-one. We were astonished that they let us into the educational program knowing our ages and that the licensure age wasn’t fair. They contacted the state and we were able to get our licenses. I lived in Brooklyn and worked as a nurse in Manhattan at New York University Hospital which was a distance of ten miles. If I worked the late shift I would ride my bike to work, leave it there and take the train home at night. The next morning I would work the early shift, take the train to work and ride the bike home in the afternoon. Every time I rode the bike I saved fifteen cents that I would have had to pay on the train so that I was able to save money in case I had flat tires and needed money for repairs. Then I started ice skating as some of the cyclists were speed skaters on ice.
GCR:After all of your training in other sports such as roller skating, biking and ice skating, how did you finally start transitioning to running?
NKI joined a club and the ice skating coach had us do what he called ‘dry training’ in the summer. It included some running. Then I found out about a girls running club and I was twice as old as the oldest runner. I also ran with them. A funny story is one day when my daughter was two years old I took her with me to the track and told her I was going to do some ‘dry training.’ When my daughter was jogging slowly with me around the track at the beginning of my run and kept turning around. I asked her ‘What is the matter?’ She said, ‘When is the train coming,’ as she thought we were on a train track.
GCR:What really increased your interest in running in the 1960s and what led you to a transition to distance running and venturing out toward running marathons which was unheard of for women at the time?
NKI moved to Long Island and had two kids and then my husband and I and two of the ice skaters had started to jog and do the ‘dry training.’ Then Bill Bowerman came out with a book called, ‘Jogging,’ which I happened to read about in the newspaper. It cost one dollar and I bought the book. I read about these ladies who were probably in their forties who were older than me and they were running with little plastic kerchiefs on top of their heads as they jogged around the track in the rain. I thought, ‘If they can do it, then I can do it.’ Here I was a mother and I was thinking that maybe I wasn’t supposed to be doing this exercising anymore but they changed those thoughts for me. In the book it said that if a girl could run a seven minute mile she was worth training. Even though I was six weeks pregnant I went out and ran a mile in 7:05 and thought that maybe I was worth training. I started to run regularly until I was about three months pregnant and then I stopped until I gave birth in March of 1968. Then I started running again. My husband and the two speed skating friends and I went to some kind of a 24 hour relay event and someone there told us about the running magazine, ‘The Long Distance Log.’ In this magazine I saw Elaine Petersen who had stood on the sidelines to jump into the Boston marathon in 1968. Elaine was an audiologist from San Francisco who passed away a couple of years ago. I had never heard of Kathryn Switzer or of any other marathon races. So my friends, my husband and I decided to train and go into the 1969 Boston Marathon. I couldn’t officially enter, but my husband and the two other guys did. We drove up and it was great.
GCR:How was your training leading up to your first unofficial marathon?
NKI don’t think I ran a twenty mile run, though I am not sure. I know I ran an 18-miler. I had beautiful places to run and my mind would be so free when I was out running by myself. I had a track close to home so I could go out and do speed work.
GCR:Before women officially were allowed to enter the Boston Marathon a few women ran unofficially for a half dozen years and you were the second woman to finish three times. How was the reception from the spectators along the course?
NKIt was great and they loved us, especially at Wellesley College. The women came out, were screaming and enthusiastic. When I finished that first marathon my husband and the other two friends were behind me so I was the lead runner from our group. I was wondering how I would know my finishing time so I looked at a runner next to me and got his number so I could look up his results to know my time. At the finish line there was Gloria Raddy, who is now a VP with the B.A.A., but back then she was a race official who kept track of the women and their times which was wonderful.
GCR:You won a half dozen marathons from 1970 to early 1972 in Yonkers, the Bronx and Atlantic City. How much fun were you having and were you getting to be fairly well known in running circles?
NKWhat happened was when we were on the starting line for the 1969 Boston Marathon and some people found out we were from New York they told us that we should come and run the Yonkers Marathon. I thought that I wouldn’t and would just go back to normal living. We went to the Yonkers Marathon and I didn't run because I was having a problem with a shoulder from stretching it too much doing yoga. After that, whenever there was a marathon around you would find me running in it. I knew I wanted to break three hours so I picked up my mileage and was running 70 miles a week. The New York Road Runners had races all around, though not in Central Park until Fred Lebow started that in 1970. But it was a small group of runners. Gary Murkey who won the 1972 NYC Marathon had three kids that were about the same age as mine and his wife would watch my kids while I was running. It was terrific. We were a small group and it was so different. There weren’t any aid stations. I remember one guy was getting fluids from someone in a car that was helping him in the Yonkers Marathon around 23 miles. I could have used some fluids, but he didn’t want me to pass him so he wasn’t going to hand me any of his fluids. But I passed him anyway (big laughter)
GCR:A historic women’s marathon day occurred at the 1971 New York City Marathon when Beth Bonner won in 2:55:22 and you were second in 2:56:04 to become the first women to break three hours. Did the two of you run together, what were the moves that led to her win and how exciting was it to go sub-3:00?
NKThat was a fantastic day. I think that she was in the lead for most of the race, or at least from eight miles onward. She was out front and I couldn’t even see her, but then I got closer in the last four or five miles as I was picking it up. Just the idea that we were running so well was very important. In 1971 when I went to my first AAU convention I put in an application for the AAU to allow women to run marathons in sanctioned races. They did pay attention to me versus some of the other women long distance runners. They did approve for ‘certain women’ to run marathons. They approved for all women to run up to ten mile races and then for some of us they allowed us to run marathons.
GCR:What was the atmosphere like the following spring leading up to the 1972 Boston Marathon and on race day since women were now officially allowed to enter and to race?
NKThe running world was different then as it was small and the press weren't all over the place. The AAU rule which allowed women to run in marathons stated that we had to start at a different time or place from the men. Aldo Scandurra had written the first long distance running rulebook and he was there so we went over to the sidewalk and drew a chalk line and decided that would be the women’s starting line. And then we just started anywhere we wanted to! It’s funny as it just came back to me. (Laughing) There were only about ten women and it was a totally different race when compared to recent years.
GCR:What are some memories of the 1972 Boston Marathon and crossing the finish line?
NKSince I had run the Boston Marathon three times unofficially I knew the route. There weren’t official water stations and there weren’t any rest rooms along the way. The spectators were great and were out with water and orange slices. One of my girlfriends planned to be at the 20-mile mark with some tea for me. After about 15 miles my stomach got upset and I felt like I had to have a bowel movement. I also had the feeling that even if I went once it may not be enough. Like I mentioned, there weren’t any rest rooms. There was a gas station, but I didn’t know if it had a rest room so I kept running. After Heartbreak Hill I saw my girlfriend and she gave me the tea. I poured it down my back, hoping that it would dilute the diarrhea which I had. Everyone was clapping and yelling, ‘Here’s the first woman!’ Then as soon as I passed they stopped clapping. I thought it was because they saw the results of my stomach discomfort on me. When I was getting close to the finish line I was wondering what I would do when I crossed the line, where my dry clothes were and how I could stop everyone from seeing my troubles. I figured I would take about eight steps and sit down on the ground, but as soon as I crossed the line they gave me a blanket to throw over me – thank goodness.
GCR:What stands out from the awards ceremony for you and men’s champion, Finland’s Olavi Suomalainen, and was he a nice gentleman?
NKHe’s a delight and I just saw him last year for the first time in forty years. Back then I might have been a little caught up in my stomach issues after the race and I didn’t appreciate him as much as I could have then. He was great and so sweet. The press was interviewing us and asked me what the race proved to me. I said that it proved to me that I had guts and then realized that this word had two meanings.
GCR:That fall you won the 1972 New York City Marathon which may be remembered more for the women’s ‘sit down’ at the start. Please tell us a bit about what led to this protest and highlights of your first New York City Marathon victory.
NKThe AAU rules said we had to have a separate start, so Fred Lebow had the idea of a sit-down strike. I recently found the original petitions for that. We decided it was unfair and discriminatory, but when I look back, it kind of made sense that the women should have a separate starting line and not take advantage of using men in the competition. But back then it seemed discriminatory. Mr. Halpern, the Director of Parks, agreed and he gave a little talk about it. We had posters and Fred called the media and got a lot of media attention. Some of the women who started could only run a short distance, but they were there to support us. Jane Muhrcke, whose husband won in 1970 started out with us in support even though she only ran about a half mile. It was really important that we were doing this. There was a lot of excitement; we proved our point and the media really captured it. We had already filed a lawsuit against the AAU if they were going to continue this discriminatory policy. Then when I went to the AAU convention later in 1972 everything changed.
GCR:Many people don’t know that your victory in 1972 wasn’t your first attempt at the New York City Marathon. What happened two years earlier?
NKAt the first NYC Marathon in 1970 I had a cold and in the middle of the race stopped running and walked for two miles with Al Harvin from the New York Times and we were talking. I thought I could go back to running but I didn’t and did not finish, thinking that I didn't have to finish since I was going to run another marathon anyway in the following month.
GCR:What I find amazing is you raced seven marathons in 1972 and won all of them. Were you just in a groove where you truly enjoyed racing the marathon distance?
NKI never even thought about it and that I won them all. Some of them I just ran to run them and I trained to run as fast as I could at others. We were just groups of people who got together to run marathons. I didn’t even realize I ran seven of them that year.
GCR:What was your training like through this period of successful racing in terms of weekly mileage and long runs?
NKI’m looking at my training logs right now. I would always take off the month of December and start back in January. I would start out with 40 miles a week and then get up to 50 and then build up to 70 miles a week, though I didn’t do that much all year around.
GCR:Did you run mostly alone or with others?
NKMost of my running was all alone. If I was going to do a long run I would go out ahead of time and throw a water bottle into the woods that I would be running past as there wasn’t any water around. Sometimes I would put some ice cubes in my bra. This is the way you did it. People looked at me like I was a little weird as distance running for women wasn’t popular. I remember how free my mind was when I was running. One example is when I was on a twenty mile run and was about four miles from my home. Someone stopped me to ask directions and I had to think, ‘Where am I?’ Then I realized I was at the four-mile point which didn’t have anything to do with what part of town I was as I ran those routes all of the time and my mind was someplace else.
GCR:Were you mainly self-coached and using tips and knowledge from many sources to formulate your training regimen?
NKI guess I was mainly coaching myself. In 1975 Bob Glover moved to the city, started some running programs and I started teaching some runners with him, but I was my own coach.
GCR:You kept racing and winning many marathons over the next two years as you won seven of eleven marathons you raced in 1973 and 1974. How much fun were you having and what was the camaraderie like between you and your fellow ‘Pioneers of Women’s Distance Running?’
NKThere was a sense of the small group of women runners belonging together because we understood each other. At some races I was training while at others I was competing, but I wasn’t afraid of women beating me, especially if it was a training run. The racing with these other women was good.
GCR:You came back to try and defend your Boston Marathon title in 1973 and finished in second place, only 30 seconds behind Jacqueline Hansen on a hot day. What do you recall of that race in terms of your strategy and pacing and when JQ was able to take the lead and pull out the win?
NKThere was a sense of relief in not winning as from the 1972 Boston and New York City marathons there was so much media attention and here I was with three kids at home. So it was fine – Jacqueline ran faster than me and she beat me.
GCR:In the fall of 1973 you won your second straight New York City Marathon. Were you starting to notice more interest among women in participating?
NKThe race was growing, but very slightly.
GCR:Did becoming Boston Marathon champion and two-time New York City Marathon champion change your life as far as recognition?
NKWhen I won at Boston in 1972 there was quite a bit of publicity in the local newspaper. There were some women who told me that when I used to run by their houses they thought I was crazy, especially if it was raining. In fact, the police stopped me several times when I was running in the rain as they thought that maybe I was running away from something. One of the newspapers had me go to the school my son attended so they could take some pictures there. It was broadcast pretty much in the papers and on television as local people who didn’t know about running were aware of what I had done.
GCR:You and several other top U.S. women such as Jacqueline Hansen and Joan Ullyot ran in Waldniel, Germany in 1974 at the unofficial World Championships for women. What stands out from that race experience?
NKThat was the year I didn’t run the New York City Marathon since they were at about the same time. I came home about six days before the New York City Marathon so I decided not to run it. But if I had maybe I would have won that one too. It’s hard to remember now, but I knew Joan already as I had been to San Francisco for a race, stayed at her house and we were friends. Dr. Ernst van Aaken who put the race together was terrific as he saw the ability of the woman’s body to run marathons. It was a great event for women and I remember afterward there was one bathtub with cold water in case anyone wanted a bath.
GCR:You weren’t racing marathons over the next two years. Was this due to injuries, priorities or a combination?
NKThat was the time when I was having problems with my back so I had to take some time away from running.
GCR:You raced your personal best time of 2:50:22 in Oct, 1977 in Minnesota placing third behind Leal-Ann Reinhart (2:46:3) and Cindy Dalrymple (2:49:11). What were you doing in training that allowed you to race faster and was it a goal of yours to break 2:50 which you almost did?
NKThat was the first marathon for women only in the United States and was held at the same time as the New York City Marathon. It was awful as I had to make a choice. I felt that I had to support the women’s race as I was the AAU Chair for women’s long distance running. We finally had our own committee as I had filed legislation to make this happen. In fact, this is my fortieth year on the committees and I wonder if they still need me. I had moved up my training in the summer and was running at least 70 miles a week. I had raced a 50k and I did a 30-mile training run along the waterway when I was in Chicago. I was so free and my body felt so good. I don’t think it was a goal to break 2:50, though I did come close.
GCR:What compelled you after that marathon PR to try your hand at longer races such as when you ran a World Record 50-mile of 6:35:53 in 1977? How tough was it mentally and physically to race that long?
NKI thought I would have liked to do it one day, but hadn’t planned it for that year. The race was on Sunday and on Friday night Bob Grover and I had to do some type of television interview and I got llate. John Pagliano, who was a Podiatrist from California who had set a 50-mile record, was supposed to be coming to the race and I was going to help him. He didn’t come so I figured I would do it. The race was in Central Park, I had run as far as 30 miles, so I figured I would just run a nice pace and do it. The race was comfortable though I got hungry as they had nothing to feed us during the race. I asked one of my friends to go and buy me a banana. That was all I ate during 50 miles – it is so different now. There was a group running together for about 20 miles and after that I was running on my own. Paul Milvy, who organized the New York Academy Science Symposium on marathon running, ran the first 20 miles and then he went home to make some food for a party that night. He had headed up the three day symposium on ‘The Physical, Psychological, Epidemiological and Sociological Aspects of Running Marathons which was the first time I ever heard of high cholesterol and I was a nurse. There were scientists and researchers from all over the United States who gave talks – it was fantastic. I gave a talk on the history on women’s marathon running. During the last three miles I knew I was doing well and I was feeling fine. With three miles to go Paul was back and he was so excited and was telling me repeatedly that I was going to set a new record. He was riding his bike along near me and yelling to everyone. ‘Nina Kuscsik is going to break the American Record!’ I said, ‘Paul, if you want to do that go farther ahead so I don’t hear it as I just want to run.’ I finished and my pulse didn’t come down afterward like usual as two hours after the race it was still 74 and should have been down to 60.
GCR:According to the Association of Road Racing Statisticians, you won 24 marathons from 1971 to 1980, including the Yonkers Marathon seven times. What did you like about the hilly and tough Yonkers Marathon which dates back to 1907 and is the second oldest in the U.S.?
NKI went to some marathons to try to do my best times or to improve my time at that particular race, but Yonkers I usually did as a training run, though I might want to run it faster than I had the year before. Keep in mind that the first 14 miles were pretty easy and then there were the hills. There was one hill at about 21 miles and at the top of the hill there was a Cardiac Care Center (laughing) and I thought how convenient that it was here just in case we needed one. It was a good time of year, it wasn’t usually hot and it was local – I loved it!
GCR:When you talk about those tough hills it reminds me how many people talk about the ‘pain of running.’ I like to discuss learning to endure increasing levels of discomfort. How important do you think it is to develop the mental ability to handle cumulative tiredness and soreness as a marathon progresses?
NKIt’s interesting because I never thought of it as enduring the discomfort. I just thought of what I expected from my body after reaching a certain mileage point and I would pay attention to what was happening in my body and learn from it.
GCR:When you raced marathons did you break them into smaller segments such as a 10-mile, a second 10-mile and a 10k where you had different plans or strategies or did you run at whatever effort felt best?
NKI knew how much energy I wanted to expend in the first twenty miles so that I would have something left. I just ran and used my energy efficiently. Maybe I could have run faster – I don’t know. Of course at Boston there are the hills including Heartbreak Hill that come into play. You have to be prepared to run strong, but you can’t overkill the hills or you will end up like Grete Waitz the one year when she cramped up after the hills. I have found that in marathons after 20 miles things change a little bit so I always expected that. Sometimes it didn’t happen until 23 or 24 miles, but I would keep going. I didn’t pick it up as I didn’t want to wreck it for the finish.
GCR:Are there any other marathons, shorter road races or track events that stand out from your running career that we haven’t discussed?
NKThe Terre Haute Marathon around 1974 went through big fields and they were great to run through. I don’t even remember my time, but I did win that race. Another is a local race, the Cow Harbor race. It started in 1977 and I won it in my best 10k time which was just under six minutes a mile. There were bells that they would ring for cows when they arrived at the harbor so the trophy was a big bell with a huge handle. It was about ten or twelve inches high. I gave it to my daughter who lives in Alberta, Canada on 140 acres and has 29 horses. They ring it and you can hear it for a long way.
GCR:When Grete Waitz raced a World Record 2:32:29 to win the 1978 New York City Marathon and repeated the following year with a stunning 2:27:32 it opened the eyes of many to the possibility that women could race much faster in the marathon. How did Grete’s performances change the landscape of women’s marathon racing?
NKI didn’t think women would run under 2:30 and it made me look differently at what was going on in the world as girls could train, be .encouraged and have coaches. It was like it was a new world.
GCR:From 1971 to 1980 the number of fast women’s marathon performances grew from less than ten sub-3:00s each of the first few years to hundreds of sub-3:00s and nearly 200 sub-2:50s in 1980. What was it like to participate in this boom period for women’s marathon running?
NKWhen you look at 1970 there were just very few women marathoners when compared to 1980. It was hard to comprehend what changes had occurred.
GCR:It’s amazing to think that in ten years women made strides from running being unusual to there being a women’s marathon included in the 1984 Olympics. How did the efforts of runners such as Kathryn Switzer, Jackie Hansen, Gayle Barron and you combined with the initial backing of Dr. Ernst von Aaken and later support of IAAF President Adriaan Paulen and IOC President Lord Killanin and the addition of corporate funding with the Avon International Marathon make inclusion of a women’s Olympic marathon a reality?
NKI remember Jackie calling me because she was doing the international work while I was doing work here in the USA as the AAU Women's Long Distance running chairman from 1980 to 1985 and of course we supported adding the women’s marathon to the Olympic program. We approved it in the USA in 1977 and brought it to the IAAF in 1979. Jackie Hansen was very involved and ‘Wow,’ when I got the call that the marathon was in the Olympics I thought that it should have happened a long time ago but it was a dream come true.
GCR:When you look back, what do you feel is more significant, your Boston and NYC Marathon victories or your part as an activist in expanding women’s distance running opportunities?
NKThey were probably equally significant. Being up front at the beginning made my next role possible and I guess somebody had to win. To be part of the 1972 Boston Marathon and winning it enhanced the thinking of women being able to run marathons. Then when I got the AAU women’s long distance running committee established I worked on so much legislation. I had Barbara Palms take the Chairman’s role though as I had three kids at home, I was a runner, I had a job and I was divorced. Then I took on the Chairman’s position for five years until Julie McKinney took over for me. Getting the marathon into the Olympics and having our first Olympic Trials was great.
GCR:What are some of your memories from the first women’s Olympic Trials and Olympic Marathon?
NKWhen Joanie Benoit had arthroscopic surgery 17 days before the 1984 Olympic Trials we didn’t know what to expect in the race. Her friend Charlotte Lettis was on the truck that kept the time for the lead runners and she couldn’t cheer for Joanie though she was her friend. Julie McKinney and I saw Joanie in the lead with about a half mile to go and it had come true that she would win and would be an Olympian. Later that year in the Olympic Marathon after 5k there was a left hand turn but there was an aid station on the right side of the street. Everybody went to the aid station except Joanie who was already in the lead and she just kept going and stayed in the lead the whole way. I was there in Los Angeles for the Olympics and was so proud that we had finally had the women's Olympic marathon and that Joanie won!
GCR:Since we are looking back, is there anything you would have done differently in training that may have helped you to be more successful as a racer?
NKThat’s a good question. Since I was divorced, had three kids and was working, I don’t know if anything would have helped. I figured out my mortgage on the run, I did term papers on the run and I was getting older by the time the marathon was in the Olympics as I was over 40. I just did what I loved and it worked out for me.
GCR:Based on your own running background, when a novice runner finds that they have a previously unknown aptitude to run well, what are the most important elements of training that will help them to step up to the next level?
NKIt depends on where they are at – do they have friends who run? Do they have other sports they are interested in? Do they have any goals? They should do what interests them and what they want to do. That is most important.
GCR:I live in Florida where we have to put up with a lengthy period of heat and humidity. After you took your December break from training you had a few months of cold, wind and snow. What advice can you give on successful training strategies in the winter with regard to building mileage, completion of long runs and intense workouts?
NKIf it was snowing I wouldn’t go out. If it was raining I didn’t have to worry about getting dehydrated. Sometimes I would run in the woods if it was really windy. I just did it as it was part of my routine as my mind was so free. With my kids in school I had some free time. When I started working again it was only two and a half days a week which wasn’t too bad. I was working at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City which was across from Central Park. After work I would run I the park before I went home which worked out very well for me. On the other days I was home and would run from there.
GCR:Since you aren’t running now due to a knee replacement, what do you miss the most about running?
NKThere is a rhythm to the run that I’m missing. There is a rhythm in the body and that freedom from that rhythm. That is what I miss the most. Races I don’t miss. I do go to races and I walk the course. In fact, I just signed up for a 4-mile race and a 5k, but I will walk them. In addition to the freedom and rhythm of the run, when I got home my body was revved up for hours. And my mind would be revved up. After I won the New York City Marathon in 1972, when I got home I went for a run because I had to unwind a bit. It was just a four-mile run, but it was my best way to unwind and was good for my body.
GCR:In addition to walking what is your current fitness and health regimen to keep as healthy as possible?
NKI bike but it depends on the weather. I belong to a bike club. I do walk often and, for example, I walked four miles today. I like the Zumba classes at the gym and we have one male instructor who is very good and I get a great workout. At the gym I do the elliptical machine, stationary bike, treadmill, some weight machines and stretching. I also do knee exercises because of the knee replacement. I also have a vegetable garden, which I haven’t started yet, but working out there gets me some more physical exercise.
GCR:What are your future goals both in promoting the sport of running and in life as you enter the so-called ‘golden years?’
NKThat’s a good question and I don’t know. I’ve been retired for a year and a half and I am still catching up on things that I put away for years and years. I’m trying to clean up my paperwork in the basement, but people keep asking me for news articles and such so I’m looking through my stuff again and again. I’m still a bit in limbo as my youngest son moved out about two years ago and I’m still getting used to living by myself. So I ask myself – what do I want to do? Do I want to travel? I was just down in Red Rock Canyon bicycling with my daughter and my son-in-law and that was really nice. I find that I get asked to go to many races to talk to the runners and I have two of them this Sunday and the following Sunday. One race I will take part in and at the other I will just talk. I do want to volunteer at our local hospital and I would like to do some bike trips. I’m not sure what else as I haven’t figured it out yet.
GCR:You have received many honors and have been inducted into the RRCA Hall of Fame, National Distance Running HOF and New York Road Runners HOF. How does it feel to be so honored for what you have done and does one award or honor stand out?
NKThey all are meaningful. When I was running and racing I wasn’t thinking about winning awards or being honored. And when I was advocating for more opportunities in women’s running it just seemed like the right thing to do. It is easier to run a marathon than to receive awards. I could feel my heart beating before I got up to speak, but once I got up I was okay. It’s similar to when I did a radio show for 1010 WINS which was one minute each week where I would talk about training. The radio staff was great and kept me calm.
GCR:What have been the positive effects of the discipline and tenacity learned from running on other aspects of your life? Or do you think we have that discipline in us already and it contributes to us being a runner?
NKI think both because I had been in training for other sports and some of it was for endurance, though not as much as in running. That is a good question as I did have the discipline from the other sports as I biked for about seven years. Running is so natural as wherever you travel you can go out for a run – you don’t need a lot of equipment. It just seemed to make my life make sense, energized everything and freed up my brain.
GCR:There is an area where I would really like to get your opinion since you have been such an activist for equal opportunities for women. What I’ve noticed in recent years as the percentage of women attending colleges has increased and schools have added every possible woman’s sport, they are cutting men’s sports to keep the percentages in line. Over 200 hundred colleges have cut men’s sports such as wrestling, golf, track, swimming and cross country. What are your thoughts on these consequences of implementing Title IX?
NKFirst I have a problem in general with the emphasis on college athletics as I always thought the reason for college was education. With the money being paid for athletes to go to college I have to wonder what is happening with those athletes and are they getting an education? They train and travel and all of that takes priority and I thought college was about education. So I try to stay clear of the discussion about Title IX.
GCR:Are there major lessons you have learned during your life from taking the plunge as a pioneer of women’s running, the discipline and mental fortitude necessary to race at a high level and any adversity you have faced that you would like to share to help people to be successful in athletics and successful in life?
NKThe human body feeds the brain and our brain feeds the body. When we look at animals, they like to run and they also have rest time. We should use their example and live that way. My vegetable garden is a natural organic garden, but working in it is also exercise. There is a fluidity and naturalness of movement in running that transcends from the physical into the mind and spirit and we should incorporate it into our entire life.
 Inside Stuff
Hobbies/InterestsGardening; organizing and catching up on stuff; Sudoku – I’m hooked on it and like to take long sit-down ‘time outs.’ I like to focus on one thing whether it is Sudoku or biking or whatever
Nicknames‘Mommy’ from my kids
Favorite moviesMostly dramas
Favorite Radio/TV showsThe Lone Ranger on radio before television. I have never watched a lot of TV, but I liked the Ed Sullivan Show. I saw The Beatles and Elvis Presley on Ed Sullivan and they were both really good
Favorite songs and musicMy favorite songs are hymns from the Methodist church like ‘What a Friend We Had in Jesus.’ I like a country singer from Canada named Dick Damron. He lives out where my daughter lives in Alberta so I’ve seen him perform a couple of times
Favorite booksI never was a reader like my sister who could read for hours
First carsIn 1957 I got my first car which was my father’s used Chevy. It must have been a 1955 model. I learned how to drive a standard shift. Every two years my father would get a new car as he used them for his work. In 1958 my boyfriend and I bought our own Chevy
Current carI have a Honda Civic now and it has a standard shift
First JobThere was a cookie factory where I worked when I was twelve years old. We packed cookies in boxes, but we could also eat some of the cookies. One day the high school counselor said to me, ‘You’ll never get to college with those dirty fingernails!’ I looked at them and I had been packing cookies that morning before I went to school and there were cookie crumbs under my nails that she thought were dirt
FamilyChristina is my oldest child. She’s 49 and will turn 50 in a couple of months. My son, Steven, is 47 and my youngest son, Tim, is 45. I have two grandchildren, Alex and Ryan, who are involved in different sports
PetsI don’t have any pets now. When I was a kid we had a dog and that was nice
Favorite breakfastCereal with bananas and walnuts
Favorite meal I love pizza but I don’t eat cheese anymore because I don’t eat dairy products. I enjoy Indian food
Favorite beveragesI have a morning coffee. I never drink soda. Oh, my praline liquor! The first time I ever had it was in 1992 in New Orleans when I was there for a convention. A friend of mine from California and I had that praline liquor and it was so good that I’ve been ordering it ever since from my liquor store and they get it from their distributor for me
First running memoriesWe did a lot of running around when we played our street games. I did go to a Police Athletic League race where I ran a 100 yard dash, but that may have been after I ran that quarter mile in 85 seconds when I heard about Roger Bannister’s sub four minute mile
Running heroesRoger Bannister was the first runner that I knew about. The only woman distance runner I had heard of before I ran my first marathon was Elaine Peterson whom I had read about in the Long Distance Log. She showed that a woman could run a marathon and it wasn’t like I wanted to be the first. After reading about what she did I thought, ‘Why can’t I run one?’
Greatest running momentsThe 1972 Boston Marathon win and winning that 50-mile race. Just to complete it was something else
Worst running momentBefore the 1970 New York City Marathon, which was the first time for that race, Race Director Fred Lebow kept telling me that I should let the press know that I was trying to break three hours. Fred knew how to get publicity, but I felt pressure from him telling me to do that. I think that made me catch a cold because I didn’t know how to respond to the pressure. I was sick but ran anyway until I finally stopped running and was walking along with Al Hardin. Then I dropped out and just figured I could run another race the next weekend
Childhood dreamsAdults were always asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I always thought, ‘Am I supposed to know already?!’ I didn’t know and I didn’t have a lot of confidence in myself. My mother had been a nurse and I could draw pictures better than her so with some kind of childhood logic I figured that I could be a nurse. That was my thinking. We didn’t get counseling or encouragement in school. I remember when I was riding to a basketball game with members of my team and the other girls were talking about where they wanted to go to college. I didn’t know anything about college as my parents didn’t talk about it. My father had said that if I wanted to go to college they would pay for it, but I didn’t know what it was about. If I wasn’t going to be a nurse I probably wouldn’t have gone to college.
Strange childhood memoryI’ve gone back to college recently and taken classes like Anthropology and Media. An unusual occurrence in the media class happened when we were watching some old films. They showed one that I had seen as a four year old child in 1943 during World War II and it had some type of military commercial with the line, ‘Did you kill a Jap today? Well, good for you!’ I remembered it as a young child and then saw it again after all of those years
Funny memoriesOne day on a distance run, Dr. George Sheehan gave us a demonstration of how he learned to pee on the run!
Embarrassing momentHaving diarrhea when I won the Boston Marathon. I felt bad at the time, but then when Grete Waitz had it when she won the 1978 New York City Marathon I at least I saw that it does happen and I’m not so abnormal
Favorite places to travelI don’t live to far from the beach on Fire Island which is on the ocean. We used to have a summer home - a group of us runners. We could run on the boardwalk or the sand. Oh wow – I could go out and run for two hours or three hours. We timed it based on the tides. My favorite time was after high tide, but before extremely low tide as that’s when the sand was the hardest. Where my daughter lives in Alberta, Canada – I love it up there. It is a small town and I remember riding on a motorcycle, not driving – just hanging on, and we passed moose and other animals. I also like the Catskills. I loved hiking the Grand Canyon and the Canadian Rockies with family and special friends and have such treasured memories