BOSTON (AP) — Gloria Ratti, a champion of women's running who rose from a finish line volunteer at the Boston Marathon to vice president of the race's organizing body, has died at 90.
A fixture at the historic marathon for decades, Ratti died Saturday after “a courageous battle with cancer,” the Boston Athletic Association said.
“Gloria in essence was the First Lady of our sport, no matter where she went,” Guy Morse, a former executive director of the BAA, said in a statement. “From champions to common runners, Gloria personally cared for everyone and represented the human side of running.”
A native of South Boston, Ratti started volunteering at the marathon's finish line in the 1960s after her husband Charlie became an avid runner. She is credited with making pivotal changes to improve the timing of athletes and promote gender equality.
It was Ratti who pushed race officials to record the names and finishing times for all runners, not just the first 100 finishers, according to the BAA. In the 1970s — after the race officially allowed women to compete — Ratti advocated for better support for female athletes and developed a checkpoint system to track their times along the course.
When the race started awarding prize money in 1986, Ratti fought to make sure women were given the same amounts as men, the BAA said.
“The real force of her nature was the employment of high standards and commitment to excellence,” Tom Grilk, BAA president and CEO, said in a statement. “With Gloria, it was this very strong personal commitment to excellence, to getting things done the best they can be and the way that they ought to be done.”
Outside the marathon, Ratti spent more than four decades in a career with the CIA, traveling the world and rising to the position of chief clerk, the BAA said. After retiring from the CIA in 1993, she joined the marathon full-time and later became the BAA's historian, archivist, vice president and secretary of its board of governors.
On race days, she was an energetic force who could be found making sure things went smoothly from start to finish. She would escort dignitaries around the starting area in Hopkinton and then make sure politicians knew the right way to place the traditional olive wreath on the champions' heads, according to the race organization.
“Gloria may not have been an athlete, but she had terrific stamina especially during race week,” said Joann Flaminio, who was the first female president of the BAA, in a statement. “She was the first to arrive and last to leave at each and every event.”
The BAA says Ratti, who was predeceased by her husband, died surrounded by family.