Sep 7, 2018
Today we chat to the first professional female distance runner, Anne Audain. Anne is from New Zealand and was born with deformities in the bones of her feet. She went on to break down the barriers for women runners and in sport in general. A truly inspiring story of overcoming physical and societal roadblocks to achieve what is possible in your life. She was banned (temporarily) in 1981 for accepting prize money at a track and field event.
Anne qualified for the Olympic games 6 times in her career (from 1972 to 1992) and has been inducted into the Running USA Hall of Fame, the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame, and the RRCA Distance Hall of Fame.
Anne Audain was born in New Zealand, adopted as an infant and suffered through her younger years with bone deformities in both her feet. After successful reconstructive bone surgery at age 13, she joined a local athletic club and a remarkable running star was born. Through her career Anne set records and pioneered professional running for women. She has since been inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame, the USA Running Hall of Fame, and honored with a Member of the British Empire Medal from Queen Elizabeth II of England for her contributions to her sport worldwide.
Anne moved to the US thanks to rumors that the US was going to open the longer running distances to women where previously 800/1500 meters were the longest distances women were allowed to run.
The difference in running between New Zealand and the US is that NZ is based on the club system vs the school based systems in the US. How she believes the US system burns young runners out.
Anne was given up for adoption as an infant as her mother was a teenaged mom. Her adoptive parents noticed that she did not walk properly and she was identified as having a bone deformity similar to large bunions, but the doctors felt she should not be operated on until she was a young teen and her feet were not actively growing as rapidly. The doctors created a leather boot that allowed her to begin to develop the proper walking motion right away.
It seemed natural to her when the casts came off to be like the other kids and run with the sports club. She didn’t want to do the field sports because she didn’t want to jump or drop things on her feet so she started running and then kept going finding she was actually good at it.
How the bullying she endured as a child and being adopted and viewed as different made her very independent, self-motivated and comfortable with her own company and training alone. She felt she wanted to run as hard as she could herself, and if she got beaten, so be it. So she didn’t run tactically, she just ran as hard as she felt she could each time and had done her very best. If that meant she was competitive, then she was competitive with herself and the clock.
How Anne found her birth parents in her 30s and found they had married a year after giving her up as an infant and she had 6 siblings. Her birth family had watched her as a runner and didn’t realize she was their daughter/sister. Her adoptive parents were supportive and her dad had raised her as an observer of sport so she was prepared to participate when her body was ready.
How she ran the fastest debut marathon before the first Olympic marathon that allowed women to run but New Zealand still required her to prove herself before allowing her on the team. As a result she had to run only a few months before the Olympics to qualify and then failed to finish at the Olympics as she ended up in the medical tent with dehydration.
How she had watched her male counterparts get paid under the table for doing European races but that women got nothing. She heard about a Portland race that Nike was offering prize money to the first ten male and female finishers and went ahead and said she would accept prize money if she qualified. At the time track sport was still an amateur only event, and she was temporarily banned by the NZ Sport Federation when she won and accepted the prize money. She also was in the US on a tourist visa so was not allowed to accept prize money and was eventually deported. She put her trust in the race directors and those who wanted the sport to change and allow prize money.
How she won over 75 road races and believes in consistency of training and going back to the same races where she was familiar with the course. It kept her healthy and consistent and made her a lot of money because she could know how to plan her training and how to focus
The key to success is consistency in training and a determination to give it your very best effort every time.
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