Sara Berman finished 33rd in Saturday's National AAU Women's Cross-country Championship race. She came muddied across the line, like most of the others, groping for the back of the runner in front of her, clinging, gasping. Larry Berman said she did fine for the first mile, but the last half mile got her and she would have to do more work. Sara is, of course, no contender, and does not claim to be. She is more like inspiration for some of the young ones, the American female distance runners of the future.
The girl for right now is Doris Brown, a 24-year-old phys-ed teacher from Seattle. She met her husband, Don, at a meet in which they were both competing, and she has been running with him ever since. She holds the world indoor-mile record (4:52), but in the present condition of women's distance running that is like setting a record for peaches canned or trading stamps licked. She runs five miles a day around a lake near Seattle; she says she loves the hills, the trees, the grass. "I don't like meets much," she says, "but I enjoy training." She has broken an arch, trained right through a case of mononucleosis, smashed a finger running in the dark and won a race while one arm was in a sling because of an injured shoulder. She endures, and she is handsomely feminine. "The femininity issue always comes up," she says, "and I tell people I do not know any girl running who is not feminine.
"Running," she argues, "is a matter of habit. Most people, even housewives, would have time to do it if they took the time and made it a habit. Most people spend their time doing—well..."
"Yes, but I didn't want to say it."
Doris Brown got out in front with Marie Mulder at the start of the race Saturday, and they finished that way, one-two, in the rain, with Doris 200 yards ahead. Her time was 7 minutes 51.2 seconds—see how those minutes and seconds creep in—and Hyten said he could not remember any woman ever running a cross-country race under eight minutes before. Everybody cluck-clucked and said how wonderful it was. Cheryl Pedlow finished fourth behind Natalie Rocha, 19, of Will's Spikettes. Sandra Knott, 29, the defending champion and once the only light on the American women's distance-running front, came in 10th, and announced her retirement.
Oh yes. Phyllis Fast finished 58th.