Starting Line 1928 is an oral history project documenting the lived experiences of female distance-running pioneers. This is the fifth episode of the podcast. We hope you’ll listen, and hit the “subscribe” button on your preferred podcasting app so you never miss an interview. And if you have suggestions for pioneers to profile, or want to join this effort, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the meantime, thanks for listening, and being a part of this unfolding story.
Freddi Carlip started casually running in 1978 as an outlet from her daily life as a stay-at-home mom to two small children. Little did she know that the healthy activity would soon become her life’s work.
In addition to serving as a founding member of the Starting Line 1928 oral history project, Carlip has served multiple terms as the President of the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA), has been publisher and editor of Runner’s Gazette since 1981, and successfully helped lobby for the inclusion of women’s 5,000 meters and marathon distances in the Olympic Games.
Reporting for Runner’s Gazette took her to races all over the world — including in Jamaica and Israel — but her favorite running memory remains her very first 10K, a local race in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, where she raised her family. At the time, she had just started running with some other young mothers in the area and their husbands convinced them to give the distance a shot despite lack of running experience or proper clothing like sports bras, which didn’t exist yet.
“We did a lot of walking, a lot of talking and we were last — and it was the happiest finish I’ve ever had,” Carlip says. “Here we were, finishing 6.2 miles without ever running more than two [miles]. Not that we ran the whole thing but we finished and we felt good. That started my running history, it really did.”
Carlip got involved with the local running community, encouraging other women to try the sport for the first time and organizing local races. The whole family got involved when she and her late ex-husband bought Runner’s Gazette and published the newspaper out of their own home.
“We called it a Mid-Atlantic grassroots running publication, although it did go all over the country and Canada,” she says. “We wanted to put in races that wouldn’t get coverage anywhere else. We kept it very homey and folksy, poetry, features, people’s personal running stories.”
She also got involved with RRCA, serving on the organization’s board as the Eastern Director for running clubs in the Mid-Atlantic, and as vice president before serving two terms as RRCA’s third-ever female president. Carlip was often recognized at local road races thanks to the long white gloves she wore with her running outfits as part of her Miss Road Manners persona; her popular advice column advised newbies on the basics of running etiquette (i.e. the inside lane of the track is reserved for faster runners, and if you hear “track!” then move into lane two).
“I look back now and I don’t think of myself as a trailblazer. We were setting the standard for other women and encouraging them.”
Note about the author: Johanna Gretschel is a freelance writer, editor and broadcaster in Austin, Texas. She is the Managing Editor of The Striker Texas and a regular contributor to Outside, Runner’s World, SELF, Women’s Running, ESPN and more.