Boston Marathon pioneer, leader and historian Gloria Ratti died at the weekend after a battle with cancer, the Boston Athletic Association announced when the New England running community mourned the loss. She was 90.
The South Boston resident’s involvement in the annual April race spanned five decades of various roles, from timing and control pioneer to event historian, vice president and secretary of the BAA Board of Governors.
Those in the New England running community remember Ratti’s charm, wit, and infectious positivity that touched thousands — from women pioneers to Boston Marathon champions and event organizers.
“Gloria was essentially the first lady of our sport, no matter where she went,” said Guy Morse, former BAA executive director, review leader in Boston Marathon and Ratti’s colleague for decades. ‘From champions to ordinary runners, Gloria personally cared for everyone and represented the human side of running.
“It was her mission to make the Boston Marathon more than a one-day event,” Morse said. “She strived to make it a personal experience for so many people. She did, but was also the moral authority that helps push the entire organization forward. ‘
Ratti joined her late husband Charlie at many races in New England, and Ratti began working with the North Medford Running Club at the Boston Marathon finish line in the 1960s.
The norm for decades was that only the top 100 runners in the Boston Marathon would record their names and times. Ratti helped change that, when she instructed the finish line officers to stay on their posts and record the names and times of all finishes coming through the gutter. Since then, the marathon has kept pace with everyone who crossed the Boylston Street finish line.
For years, women’s checkpoints along the race route were no longer as diligent as the men, and that’s why Ratti created a system to keep track of women leaders.
She stationed officials along the track and trained each one to accurately identify and record athletes as they passed. The system will soon be expanded to the wheelchair section.
Ratti also fought to ensure equal prize money was offered to the top coaches from 1986, when the race shifted from amateur to professional. In addition, she helped design the Boston Marathon Champion’s trophy.
“The real power of her kind was the application of high standards and dedication to excellence,” said Tom Grilk, President and CEO of BAA. “With Gloria, it was this very strong personal commitment to excellence, to get things done as well as possible and the way it should be done. The core value that drove her was that things had to be done as well as possible. ”