Violet Piercy

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Violet Stewart Louisa Piercy (24 December 1889[1] – April 1972) was an English long-distance runner who is recognized by the International Association of Athletics Federations as having set the first women's world best in the marathon on 3 October 1926 with a time of 3:40:22.[2] [nb 1] Piercy was reported to have run unofficially[5] and her mark was set on the Polytechnic Marathon course between Windsor and London.[6][nb 2]

According to the IAAF, Piercy's mark stood 37 years until Merry Lepper's 3:37:07 performance at the Western Hemisphere Marathon on 16 December 1963.[2][nb 3]

Piercy died in April 1972 in a London hospital after suffering a brain haemorrhage, hypertension and chronic kidney-related infection.[13] The death certificate mistakenly gave her surname as Pearson.[13]


  1. ^ The marathon world record progression of the Association of Road Running Statisticians includes Piercy, however, it notes Marie-Louise Ledru of France as the first woman.[3] According to the ARRS, Ledru ran 5:40:xx at the Tour de Paris Marathon held on 29 September 1918.[4]
  2. ^ A number of sources, including Kathrine Switzer, have reported that the venue for Piercy's mark was the actual Polytechnic Marathon;[7] however, records from the Association of Road Racing Statisticians confirm that the 1926 Polytechnic Marathon was held on 18 May.[8] The course for the Polytechnic Marathon did vary over the years[9] and there is currently very little information available to state exactly which route was run by Piercy. Although the IAAF progression notes the location for her performance as "Chiswick",[2] the Polytechnic Marathon did not end in Chiswick until 1938.[9] Prior to 1933, the Polytechnic Marathon ended at Stamford Bridge in West London.[9] An ESPN reference does note Stamford Bridge as the location where Piercy's run finished.[10]
  3. ^ According to the Association of Road Racing Statisticians, the course for the Western Hemisphere Marathon was short in 1962 and 1963.[11] The ARRS also notes the date of the race as 14 December 1963.[11][12]


Preceded by
record established
Women's Marathon World Record Holder
3 October 1926 – 16 December 1963*
(*see explanation in the Notes section)
Succeeded by
Merry Lepper