Tuesday, February 12, 2019

A Pioneer Has Passed

I was saddened to learn of the passing of Patricia Nell Warren earlier in the week.  Patricia was a pioneer in many different ways, and her absence will be profound in many circles.

"How did you pick Penn State as the school (where) the protagonist coached
at before leaving under mysterious reasons?" 

"At the time (1972-1974), to be a track coach at Penn State put you at the top of
the heap.  Penn State was a big power in track, and had been for some
time.  Harlan Brown had to have that kind of positioning and prestige
and experience to think about pointing a protege runner at the
Olympics."  - Patricia Nell Warren.

Patricia was among the first women to brave the stereotype of women being too fragile to run the marathon.  She was in those early Boston Marathons when those in charge were trying to stop her in 1969.

She soon wrote a groundbreaking novel involving running and same-sex relationships, The Front Runner, which became a NYT best seller, and slowly ushered in an era of inclusion in the staid running world.  The large running community called The Frontrunners continues to grow. Her protagonist was the head track coach at Penn State until false allegations of sexual misconduct got him fired.

I was introduced to the book by a high school English teacher who noticed my "running career" had taken off and asked me, "Are you a Front Runner?"  I don't remember my answer, but I do remember the full-throated laughter afterward!  In those days, it was not "a quick google" away to find answers, but I dug in to find out about the book.  I didn't actually read it until my brother checked it out for me from Patee Library. There was no way Dover Area High School would have had the book in those days.

Reading the book opened my eyes to a world I had never even thought about.  And it connected me with a group of people who I seemingly had nothing in common with.  It helped cement a better world view my rural upbringing could not have established on its own.

In recent years, I befriended Patricia on Facebook and had the opportunity to ask her many questions.  I found her to be a delightful, thoughtful and patient friend.  RIP

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