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]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c "12th IAAF World Championships In Athletics: IAAF Statistics Handbook. Berlin 2009" (pdf). Monte Carlo: IAAF Media & Public Relations Department. 2009. p. 653. Retrieved 19 May 2010.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Sporting Females: Critical Issues in the History and Sociology of Women's Sports By Jennifer Hargreaves
  6. ^ Noakes, Tim (2003). The Lore of Running (Fourth ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 675. ISBN 0-87322-959-2.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 October 2013. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b c
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b "Western Hemisphere Marathon". Association of Road Racing Statisticians. Retrieved 10 May 2010. The 1962-63 courses are considered to have been short.
  12. ^ "World Marathon Rankings for 1963". Association of Road Racing Statisticians. Retrieved 10 May 2010.
  13. ^ a b Rob Hadgraft. "Violet and Paula - England's gift to the marathon world!". Diary of a Clapped-Out Runner. Retrieved 21 April 2016.
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