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Jackie Kean recalls experience as first woman to run Tely 10

Jackie Kean, at age 16, was the first woman to run the Tely 10.
Jackie Kean, at age 16, was the first woman to run the Tely 10. - Contributed

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — In 1969, at the suggestion of her coach at Holy Heart of Mary High School, 16-year-old Jackie Kean became the first woman to run the Tely 10.

Jackie Kean in 1969 just before she went to the Canada Games.
Jackie Kean in 1969 just before she went to the Canada Games.

Kean had always enjoyed distance running, and her coach thought she should sign up for the Tely 10 just to see if she could do it. Leading up to the race, she would run a total of five miles a day, including two laps around Quidi Vidi Lake before school. Despite there being many girls on the Holy Heart of Mary High School track team at the time Kean attended the school, she was the only female distance runner.

On race day, Kean was made to start half an hour after the men. She explains that she understood at the time they were unsure if a woman would be able to finish the race, and did not want her to pass or get in the way of the other runners.

“It was a great experience, I really enjoyed it,” says Kean, despite the cold and rainy conditions on race day.

Kean recalls that it was hard running alone, and without the support and pace of others running beside her, she finished her first Tely 10 in 92 minutes.

In 1970, Kean returned for a second Tely 10, this time being allowed to start alongside the men, and she even passed a few of them. She ran her second and final Tely 10 in 76 minutes.

After that, Kean went on to start her family. She joked that she wishes they had given out T-shirts in the early years because she never got one for running. Kean still has the trophies from both years she ran the race.

Jackie Kean’s trophy for being the first woman to run in the Tely 10, in 1969.
Jackie Kean’s trophy for being the first woman to run in the Tely 10, in 1969.

With the exception of a few select female runners such as Georgina Parsons, Bonnie Reid, Gail Vincent, Cindy French and Colleen Martin, large numbers of women did not start competing in the Tely 10 until 1979.

Kean went on to compete at the first Canada Summer Games in 1969 in Halifax, alongside Abby Hoffman and Diane Jones. She also competed in the Pan American Games.

She ran into her 50s and still enjoys walking. She goes to watch the runners cross the finish line every year at the Tely 10 and is happy to see how many women are running.

“I watch it every year and I really enjoy it,” Kean said.

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