TSR's Profiles of Greatness - Beth Bonner

By: Mike Mcmillion

Beth Bonner Biography

Morgantown High (class of 1971) / Brandywine College, Maryland


Beth Bonner was the first woman to run a sub-three-hour marathon (NYC Marathon - 2:55:22).

Bonner (born on June 9, 1952) was a long-distance runner from Reedsville, in Preston County, West Virginia. She was involved in equestrian sports from an early age through junior high, but discovered running in the eighth grade. Her mother recalls taking her to nearby Morgantown where a Mr. Zann was a running coach. With few running opportunities for girls in high school in the late 1960s, Bonner convinced her parents to let her attend high school in Morgantown to work with Zann. At that time there were few distance opportunities in track for women, with the 1,500 meters their longest Olympic event. However, women were beginning to be recognized for finishing some of the major marathons in the East, and during the four years of high school Bonner and her coach recognized her outstanding endurance as a runner. She graduated from high school in 1971 and enrolled at a Junior College in Brandywine, Maryland, where she could continue distance training. During 1971 she is credited with two world record setting marathon performances, first a 3:01:41 in Philadelphia and later she became the first woman to finish a marathon in less than three hours when she won the New York Marathon in 2:55:22. These performances were at the age of 19. In 1971, and again in 1972, she was selected to run for the US in the World Cross Country Championships where she became friends with two-time Olympian and five-time World Cross Country Champion, Doris Brown Heritage. Heritage had run for Seattle Pacific University and was still coached by Ken Foreman at the college. Bonner decided to complete her undergraduate studies at Seattle Pacific and enrolled in 1973. After graduating from Settle Pacific, Bonner returned home where she taught English in Preston County schools and coached there for several years. Later she received her PHD from Auburn University in Alabama. She was teaching and coaching at Schreiner University in Kerrville, Texas, when she had a second bike accident that was fatal. She died on October 9, 1998 as a result of the accident.

An annual 5K run is held in her name in Arthurdale, West Virginia.

Beth Bonner was inducted into the Road Runners Club Hall of Fame in 2008 and the Morgantown High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2014.

Note: Beth Bonner, was a middle - distance runner first, she ran 3,000 meters in 9:48 at the cross World Championship in 1971.


Beth Bonner biography compiled by Mike McMillion

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