A Woman to Know: Diane Leather

I had no idea that I would ever be called a pioneer. — Diane Leather

I had no idea that I would ever be called a pioneer. — Diane Leather

(image via The Illustrated News of London)

In 1952, when she was just a 19-year-old chemist working her first job in a laboratory, Diane found her inspiration: Olympic athletes. Watching the female runners crush 100-meter and 200-meter records, she suddenly thought, “I’d love to do that.”

Just three years later, after joining a local running club and throwing herself into training, Diane broke the ultimate record. She became the world’s first-ever woman to run a mile in under five minutes (her final time was 4:59:6, to be exact). A man had only just beat the same record three weeks earlier.

But at the time, the running world didn’t recognize women’s records in the same way it did men’s. Over time, as the sporting bodies caught up to speed, women would receive honors for their records — but not Diane. “It was something I accepted,” she told reporters years later.

In 2013, just five years before she died at age 85, the England Athletics Hall of Fame added her name to its legendary ranks.

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