1975 – Liane Winter

Source: Dr. David Martin Collection (link under references)

21-Apr-1975 – Boston Marathon – 2:42:24 – EB Lydiard Marathon
Date of birth: 24-Jun-1942 (died 17-Jan-2021 – aged 78)
Nationality: West German (at the time)

The athlete:                
Liane Winter had already demonstrated her talents in shorter distances, but would soon begin working with one Ernst van Aaken who believed strongly in the ability of women to compete in distance racing, as at the time women were banned from competing in anything other than short distances. He had been promoting the cause since the 1950s, his students running up to 30 kilometres each day. Training under van Aaken, Winter would soon begin showing her promise in the marathon. She would set the new national record in 1974 and broke the 3-hour barrier in the process. She would enter to compete at the second ever Women’s International Championship, organised by van Aaken in his hometown of Waldniel.

Facing some of the strongest competition in the world, including Jacqueline Hansen, Christa Vahlensieck, and Chantal Langlacé, she won in 2:50:31.4. It was at the 1975 Boston Marathon howver where Winter would truly make her mark. Winning the 1974 Women’s International Championship made her the race favourite, but Winter had arrived in Boston only days before the race. Taking the lead from the start, she would be unchallenged even by Kathrine Switzer who in her own words ran the best race of her career. It was not enough, and Winter finished nearly ten minutes ahead in 2:42:24. During the post-race interview she legendarily asked for a beer to quench her thirst.

Incredibly, organisers only provided Winter with the gold medal for her victory in 1996 at the 100th anniversary of the Boston Marathon. Although women had officially been allowed to enter in 1972, attitudes among some officials still impacted proceedings. As for her record, it stood for less than two weeks before Christa Vahlensieck, countryman and fellow pupil of van Aaken, would go even faster. Unfortunately, due to the steep nature of the Boston Marathon course, her record would not have been considered official by modern standards. You can read more about that here.

Running her last marathon on foot in 1991, Winter would eventually contract multiple sclerosis which robbed her of the ability to walk. Ever the athlete, she made the move to handbiking and competed in the division at the Berlin Marathon.

The shoes:                   

Her footwear that day were almost certainly the EB Lydiard Marathon. Winter wore the shoe in 1974 at the Women’s International Championship, which you can watch footage of here, and could be seen wearing the same model as late as 1978 where we have our photo from the Avon International Women’s Marathon in Atlanta. There are no photos showing the shoes Winter wore at Boston in 1975, but given it was only months after the Women’s International Championship it would be quite likely she continued with the model.

Extremely lightweight, they were an expensive but popular choice at the time. The brand was launched in collaboration between famed running coach Arthur Lydiard and German manufacturer Brütting. In correspondence with Jacqueline Hansen, she recalled that Eugene Brütting even provided pairs of his shoes to competitors at the Women’s International Championship. It is unclear whether Winter made the switch at the event, but in any case the Marathon model is still being made today if you’re curious.

The Women’s Marathon Movement by Jacqueline Hansen
Marathon Woman by Kathrine Switzer