Arlene Pieper Stine, 90, Dies; First Woman to Finish a Marathon


On Aug. 7, 1959, Arlene Pieper accomplished the Pikes Peak Marathon, a grueling mountain course in Manitou Springs, Col., that no different lady had completed in its temporary historical past.

She ascended 8,000 ft to the 14,000-foot summit and descended the identical manner in 9 hours and 16 minutes.

“At the finish line, I felt pretty good,” she said in an interview with the Boston public radio station WBUR in 2017. “I’m sure I was a little tired, but I wasn’t completely exhausted. I lost all my toenails a few days later.”

Her achievement didn’t produce a thunderclap in sports activities world and stayed one thing of a secret as girls competing on extra outstanding levels achieved marathon milestones: Roberta Gibb turned the primary lady to run in and full the Boston Marathon in 1966, and Joan Benoit gained the primary girls’s Olympic marathon, in Los Angeles, in 1984.

After ending Pikes Peak, Ms. Pieper returned to work on the girls’s health studio that she and her husband, Wallen Pieper, owned in Colorado Springs.

She didn’t know for 50 years that she had made athletic historical past of her personal: She was the primary lady ever to full a sanctioned marathon within the United States.

Only then would glory come.

Ms. Pieper — who was recognized most just lately as Arlene Pieper Stine — died on Feb. 11 in Capitola, Calif., south of San Jose. She was 90.

Her loss of life, which was not extensively reported, was confirmed by her daughter Kathie Pieper, who stated her mom had Alzheimer’s illness.

Arlene Val Richter was born on March 18, 1930, in Studio City, Calif. Her father, Armin, owned a furnishings firm, and her mom, Valbourg (Petersen) Richter, was a phone operator.

Arlene met Mr. Pieper, a bodybuilder and soccer participant, in highschool; he introduced weights to her home they usually labored out in her kitchen. They had been nonetheless of their teenagers after they married.

She additionally threw the javelin and discus at a native monitor, her daughter stated in an interview. After her marriage, she helped her mother-in-law make costumes for the Ice Capades and Mr. Pieper attended U.C.L.Some time working in a gymnasium.

They moved to Colorado Springs in 1957 and opened Arlene’s Health Studio. Mr. Pieper instructed to her that she promote their business by competing within the Pikes Peak run, which she first did in 1958. But she stopped after reaching the summit, and he or she was disqualified.

“That got her all upset,” Kathie Pieper stated, “and she said, ‘I’m going back next year.’”

She redoubled her coaching and was ready for Pikes Peak that sunny August day in 1959.

“I had my short shorts on that we used to wear back then and a white blouse tied in a knot — that’s how we did things back in the ’50s,” Ms. Pieper Stine advised WBUR. “And my tennis shoes from the dime store, and off I went.”

She was accompanied on the ascent by her husband and Kathie, then 9, whose 5:44.52 time trailed her mom’s by 27 minutes. Another lady, Katherine Heard-Fahl, ran solely the ascent. Twelve males and a horse named Min accomplished the race.

After Ms. Pieper finished the descent in 3:54.08, her marathoning profession ended. She and her husband returned to California in 1961 and ultimately divorced. Her marriages to Eddie Garza and Richard Stine additionally resulted in divorce.

In the years after returning to California, she lived in Fresno and labored in health studios and in gross sales. And what she had finished on Pikes Peak was largely forgotten.

“It’s like she ran into obscurity,” stated Ron Ilgen, the president of the Pikes Peak Marathon, who started to seek for her within the early 2000s.

But her relocation, and her varied identify adjustments, made her tough to discover. A non-public detective failed. Then, in 2009, as an occasion to honor the 50th anniversary of her achievement approached, Mr. Ilgen tried a completely different tactic.

“I ran an ad in the local newspaper: ‘Find Arlene Pieper,’ with a $200 or $300 reward,” he stated in an interview. “We were getting desperate. And a genealogist took hold of it like a bulldog.”

The genealogist, Linda Vixie, not solely tracked down Ms. Pieper but in addition advised her by cellphone of her distinction as the primary lady to full a licensed marathon.

“It just — just blew me away,” Ms. Pieper advised WBUR. “I said, ‘I’m the first?’”

For the following decade, Ms. Pieper Stine loved newfound standing in Manitou Springs as a pioneer on a number of marathon weekends. She signed autographs. Runners requested to contact her for good luck. And she was the official starter of every race she returned to.

“That first year we got there, 2009, people were lined up on the street,” Kathie Pieper stated. “We were in a car and she was waving like the queen.”

Ten years later, a group of ladies, wearing white as Ms. Pieper Stine had in 1959, honored her by operating the ascent a week earlier than the marathon.

She was additionally named one in all Runner’s World’s “Heroes of Running “in 2014 and inducted into the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.

In addition to her daughter Kathie, she is survived by two other daughters, Karen Pieper and Linda Garza; a son, Karl Pieper; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

On race day in 1959, there were no aid stations on the mountain trail, no volunteers handing out bottled water or Gatorade. Ms. Pieper drank from a stream.

And as she passed some men on the ascent, her daughter recalled, she asked them, “Isn’t it a beautiful day for a race?”



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