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Arlene Pieper Stine (1930–2021), first woman to finish a marathon

by Linnea Crowther

Arlene Pieper Stine became the first woman to officially finish a sanctioned marathon in 1959, when she ran the Pikes Peak Marathon.

A hidden achievement

When Stine made history, she was running Arlene’s Health Studio, a women’s fitness center in Colorado Springs along with her husband. She decided to run the grueling Pikes Peak Marathon to promote the studio. Running in dime-store tennis shoes, Stine first attempted the marathon in 1958, stopping before she finished. When she tried again in 1959, she completed the marathon with an official time of 9:50.20.

Stine never ran another marathon, and her achievement was almost lost to history as other women made notable achievements in other marathons. It wasn’t until the 2000s that a Pikes Peak Marathon historian made the connection that Stine had been the first, and it took him years to track her down. When he was finally able to locate her, Stine was shocked to learn that she had been the first woman to complete a marathon. She later served as the official starter at several Pikes Peak Marathons.

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Notable quote

“I had my short shorts on that we used to wear back then and a white blouse tied in a knot — that’s how we did things back in the ’50s. And my tennis shoes from the dime store, and off I went.” —from a 2017 interview with WBUR

Full obituary: The New York Times

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