December 23, 2005
MARCY SCHWAM INDUCTED INTO NATIONAL ULTRARUNNING HALL OF FAME
In 2004 the American Ultrarunning Association created the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame. Last year’s inaugural inductees were Ted Corbitt and Sandy Kiddy. From 2005 on, one new inductee per year will be selected. In order to qualify for selection to the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame, candidates must either have been retired from competition for 10 years, or have reached the age of 60.
Joining Corbitt and Kiddy is our 2005 inductee, Marcy Schwam. Schwam’s ultra career lasted less than a decade, from the late 1970’s through the mid 1980’s. She was one of the pioneers not only of American, but of global women’s ultrarunning. When Marcy Schwam entered her first ultra, barely a handful of women around the world had attempted the sport. Within a few years a trio of Americans (Kiddy, Schwam, and Sue Ellen Trapp) took the lead in bringing the distaff dimension of global ultrarunning from fledgling to legitimate world class. Kiddy and Trapp were in their 30’s and exhibited a measured, consistent, elegant approach to the sport. Schwam was a decade younger and, in contrast, displayed a bold, brazen, get-out-of-my-way attitude and racing style. In it’s year 2000 summary report on Ultrarunners of the 20th Century, Ultramarathon World contrasted Kiddy and Schwam as follows: Kiddy’s great competitive performances were like Mozart symphonies, but Schwam was pure Rock & Roll.
Marcy Schwam was originally a tennis player, and competed briefly in the Virginia Slims professional circuit in the 1970’s. She became a runner at the height of the mid-70’s running boom, moved quickly to marathons, and just as quickly into the brand new realm of ultrarunning. She achieved instant success. After a few short-range ultras to test the waters, she became the first woman to complete the 72-mile race around Lake Tahoe in 1978. The following year, at a time when just finding an ultramarathon was a challenge, she broke the American 100km record in Yakima, Washington by nearly 20 minutes, only to discover afterwards that on the same day, a few hours earlier, Trapp had run 8 minutes faster in a 100km race in Connecticut. Later that year Schwam ran in two 48-hour races, establishing an American and World Record of 113.0 miles for 24 hours en route in the second one.
The next two years saw Trapp and Schwam trade World 100km and 24 hours records back and forth three times (lowering the 100km by almost an hour), while never meeting head-to-head. In the midst of the frenzy, Schwam set a world 100 mile track record of 15:44:27. She also lowered her marathon best to 2:47. In September, 1981, Marcy Schwam finally put Trapp and all other challengers behind her with what Ultrarunning magazine has described as a landmark “performance for the ages,” finishing 3rd among men in one of the world’s premier ultras, the Santander 100km in Spain. Her 7:47:28 obliterated Trapp’s 8:05:26 world record and put her in a class by herself. The following year she became the first woman in history to run under 6 hours for 50 miles, winning the AMJA 50 Miler in Chicago in 5:59:26. Also in 1981 she became the first woman in the modern era to complete a 6-day race, setting a world record 384.00 miles while finishing second to Park Barner in the Weston 6-Day Race in Pennsauken, New Jersey. Schwam’s last serious ultra effort was an American Record 187.79 miles for 48 Hours on an indoor track in Haverford, PA in January, 1985.
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