M*A*S*H and the 1979 Los Angeles Women’s Marathon

On Saturday, November 3rd, 1979 the first (and, I believe, only) Los Angeles Women’s Marathon was held in Los Angeles, California. The race covered 26 miles and 386 yards in Los Angeles County, tracing the exact route taken by the competitors in the 1932 Olympics. According to The Los Angeles Times, the race was being looked at as a sort of “test run” by the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee putting together the 1984 Games in that city [1].

The marathon was sponsored by 20th Century-Fox whose chairman, Dennis Stanfill, was a running enthusiast as well as a member of the L.A. Olympic Organizing Committee [2]. Between 50 and 60 women participated in the marathon. The winner was a 39-year-old woman from New Zealand named Beverly Shingles, who ran the marathon in 2 hours, 45 minutes and 46 seconds [3].

What does any of this have to do with M*A*S*H, you ask? I recently found on my computer two scanned promotional photographs that were sold on eBay in 2002 (I didn’t buy them but saved copies) that show participants in the Los Angeles Women’s Marathon visiting the M*A*S*H set.

M*A*S*H and the Los Angeles Women's Marathon
M*A*S*H and the Los Angeles Women’s Marathon
M*A*S*H and the Los Angeles Women's Marathon
M*A*S*H and the Los Angeles Women’s Marathon

I don’t think the captions provide any helpful information about when the photographs were taken or who the women in them are. But an article in The Los Angeles Times about Beverly Shingles notes that “on the day before the race, Shingles jogged outside the hotel and visited the set of M*A*S*H at 20th Century-Fox, which sponsored the race” [4]. So the set visit took place on Friday, November 2nd, 1979.

You can read more about the 1979 Los Angeles Women’s Marathon at Running Times Magazine. For the record, the 1984 Olympic Games did include a women’s marathon; you can read more about the history of the sport at MarathonGuide.com.

Works Cited:
1 Moran, Sheila. “A Path Out of the Past Could Open Up the Future.” Los Angeles Times. 1 Nov. 1979: E1.
2 Ibid.
3 Moran, Sheila. “Shingles Saves Best for Last, Wins Marathon.” Los Angeles Times. 4 Nov. 1979: C1.
4 Ibid.

6 Comments

  • Susan says:

    Hi there … I just came across this post. I ran that marathon in 1979 (I think I was 6th). I remember visiting the set of M*A*S*H. The group was filming a holiday greeting. We got to meet them all, but by far the most impressive of the group was Alan Alda, who seemed very interested in what we were doing, how we trained, etc. He was really engaging.

    This marathon was a big deal. It was filmed by 20th Century Fox and shown throughout the country. I was living in Boulder, CO at the time and saw it there a week or so later. I’ve always wanted to get a copy of that but have no idea where to begin. We had a ‘color commentator” for that video … her first name was Kathy, she was kind of a Hollywood celebrity and a good tennis player, but didn’t know a lot about running.

    The idea was to show that women could, indeed, run 26.2 miles with no ill effects, and the hope was that the first woman in our race would run as fast or faster than the first man did in the 1932 Olympics. It could have easily happened, but didn’t on that day. I think the winning time was around 2:46.

    I have the fondest memories of that trip. We were invited to lunch at the 20th Century Fox commissary, where we met Robert Wagner and others. We were all star struck. The course was tough, because much had changed since 1932 … it was almost all on cement and we had a very long, straight stretch near the LAX airport. Neighborhoods had changed a lot too. There were only about 50 of us, so the race strung out pretty quickly.

    Susan Henderson (was Susan Rossiter at that time)

  • RJ says:

    Susan, thank you so much for sharing your memories of the race.

  • Tracy warren says:

    I think my aunt was there. I remember it being on ABC wide world of sports? Skip Swanick was her name…

  • Jan Arenz says:

    I have fond memories of the race. We were treated very nicely. I felt like a “rock star”.

    Kathy Lee Crosby was on the course as a commentator. I collapsed at 17 miles with heat exhaustion.

  • Susan Henderson says:

    Yes! It was Cathy Lee Crosby! It was a fun trip, and made much more interesting because we were running the 1932 Olympic Marathon course, definitely a unique twist and opportunity. I would love to see that film they made of the race. It was very professionally done and I remember we all looked very fit and serious.

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