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20 Women Who Are Changing The Sport Of Running (And The World)

Victoria Davis, Nicki Miller, Allison Pattillo, Caitlyn Pilkington and Jessie Sebor /
Tricia is in purple.

Jodi Norgaard

Founder and CEO, Dream Big Toy Company
Glen Ellyn, IL

A girl’s idea of what it means to be beautiful begins at a young age—and the toys she plays with can have a dramatic influence. Entrepreneur Jodi Norgaard wanted to do something to counteract the unrealistic body image promoted by brands like Barbie and Bratz, so she created something entirely different.

While coaching for Girls on the Run, Norgaard became inspired to encourage young girls to value things other than skinny waists and big lips. Partnering with her 10-year-old daughter, Norgaard created Go! Go! Sports Girls, dolls that reflect strength and individuality while promoting an active lifestyle. The Sports Girls (like Runner Girl Eli and Basketball Girl Tay) come dressed in athletic wear with a gym bag full of equipment. Made from soft cloth, the dolls even have an inspirational “tummy message” unique to their sport.

Norgaard says, “I’ve faced a lot of opposition with people telling me that my dolls wouldn’t sell because they aren’t mainstream, but the truth is mainstream ideas do not create change and I am creating change.”

In April, Norgaard received an invitation to the White House to discuss “Breaking Down Gender Stereotypes in Media and Toys” with the Council on Women and Girls. Since the meeting, Norgaard has had the opportunity to speak at various organizations about gender equality and is in the process of partnering with other toy companies. Her 2017 goal is to add animation and apparel offerings, thereby making Go! Go! Sports Girls a household name. “I am honored to be a pioneer in this movement,” she says. –VD

Abbey D’Agostino

Photo courtesy of New Balance

Photo courtesy of New Balance

Professional Runner
Boston, MA

The Olympic spirit  and the concepts of friendship, solidarity and sportsmanship were on full display at the track in Rio this summer. Many Americans came home with shiny medals (Jenny Simpson, Allyson Felix, the entire women’s 100-meter hurdle squad, to name a few). But it was the qualifying heat of the women’s 5,000 meters that showed a heart of gold.

Team USA runner Abbey D’Agostino fell over New Zealander Nikki Hamblin when Hamblin tripped about 3,000 meters into the race. Instead of continuing on, D’Agostino helped Hamblin up, encouraging her with the words “Get up. Get up. We have to finish this.” Hamblin returned the favor when the Dartmouth grad fell to the ground herself. D’Agostino hurt her knee during the initial fall but managed to finish the heat, albeit in last place, an unfamiliar position for the winner of seven individual NCAA Championships.

D’Agostino later discovered she had torn her meniscus and ACL and strained her MCL during the spill. After an appeal, both women were granted slots in the final, but due to her injuries, D’Agostino was unable to run. Instead she watched from the sidelines, cheering for her American compatriots as well as her new friend.

Both women have since been awarded the Rio 2016 Fair Play Award by the International Fair Play Committee. As for her kind reaction, D’Agostino credits a higher power. In a statement following the race, she said: “Although my actions were instinctual at that moment, the only way I can and have rationalized it is that God prepared my heart to respond that way. This whole time here He’s made clear to me that my experience in Rio was going to be about more than my race performance—and as soon as Nikki got up I knew that was it.” –AP

Kelly Roberts

Founder, Run, Selfie, Repeat Blog
New York, NY

Kelly Roberts is the runner who (hilariously) proves that goals as big as qualifying for the Boston Marathon can happen regardless of your background. However, her internet fame started simply with race photos. You might recognize her name from that time she ran the New York Half in 2014, taking selfies with “hot guys” along the way.

It’s no surprise that her blog, Run, Selfie, Repeat, is incredibly popular; her social channels have thousands of followers eating up daily posts filled with sarcastic inspiration and testimonials from her quest to qualify for the 2018 Boston Marathon.

When she announced the goal, Roberts promised to share every step of her journey on Instagram—a vow she has kept, making us laugh, cry and nod our heads with an “I know the feeling” of running through sweltering summer heat, wanting to barf after a 5K PR and waiting for that glorious post-run beer.

Most recently, Roberts worked to inspire women everywhere to embrace their shape with #sportsbrasquad, a campaign that started this summer after she said, “Bye BS insecurities” and ditched her shirt on the run, asking other women to do the same.

“I think whenever I look through the social media channels of my favorite brands, I see the same body type and I find myself comparing myself to them,” explained Roberts. “I am the strongest I have ever been in my life, and yet, there I was, feeling too ashamed to run in a sports bra and shorts because I’m a size 8–10. I’m tired of feeling ashamed of what I see when I look in the mirror or wishing that I looked like someone else. The best part is that once I took my shirt off and celebrated what I had, I felt like a different person.” –CP

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