Sandra Kiddy was born in 1936. She ran her first ultramarathon in 1979 at the age of 42, opening her career with a bang by notching a world best 3:36:56 for 50km. And she never looked back.
Unbeknownst to her or two particular countrywomen at the time, she, Marcy Schwam, and Sue Ellen Trapp formed an American trio who would lead women’s ultrarunning into global prominence for the first time in history. Among the three of them, they would bring women’s performance levels from 50km through 24 hours to staggering new heights, and awaken the rest of the world to the opportunity for women to achieve athletic recognition in ultramarathons on a par with men. Among them, Kiddy was the most senior in age and the most consistent.
In 1981 Kiddy ran her first 50 miler, in 6:24:19, putting her at #4 on the all-time world list with a performance that would still rank at the top of the American women’s performance charts today. In subsequent years she would drop her 50 mile best to 6:15:47, then 6:09:09, the latter at age 47, behind only Schwam on the all-time U.S. list.
In 1982 Kiddy won the Chicago Lakefront 100km, the premier American road ultra, in 7:59:59, becoming only the second woman in history (again, behind Schwam) to break 8 hours, the first on American soil.
The following year she continued her progression upward in distance and in stature, running the first of her many successful European ultras. After a tight battle with German 100km recordholder Monika Kuno, Kiddy pulled away to win a special women’s invitational “World Cup 100 Mile” in Waldniel, Germany in 15:40:50. In doing so she finally emerged from Schwam’s shadow, beating the younger American’s existing absolute world best by over 3 minutes. Later that year she lowered her 50km best to 3:32:34, taking 3rd spot on the all-time U.S. list.
Another year, another landmark: In 1984 Kiddy came within 2 minutes of Schwam’s absolute 100km World Best, running 7:49:16 to win the Edmund Fitzgerald 100km outright, catching and passing men’s winner Harry Sloan in the last 100 meters. In 1984 she also broadened her European horizons, winning the historic Two Bridges 36 miler in Scotland in course record time.
Her 100 mile World Best had lasted only a few months, and fellow American Donna Hudson now topped the century charts with her 15:31:57. This gave the 48-year old Kiddy impetus for her 1985 shining star, a 15:12:54 new World Best in Florida that would have to wait for Ann Trason, the star of a new generation, to be challenged.
In 1985 and 1986 Kiddy set Europe ablaze, winning London-to-Brighton and the Winschoten and Torhout 100kms, each of the latter two in just over 8 hours. She was right on the cutting edge of the high-profile European 100km phenomenon which would bring media attention, prize money, and national team competition to these events. Continental Europe led the way in this breakthrough, and this American woman in her late 40’s was their queen. At the end of 1986, just a week shy of her 50th birthday, she ran 7:56:21 to win the Philadelphia-to-Atlantic City 100km.
During the late 80’s Kiddy also made a token foray into the exploding new phenomenon of American trail racing, winning the Ice Age 50 Miler in Wisconsin, one of the largest and most competitive of the trail events.
Of the half-dozen 100km races Kiddy ran in her prime, all of them were major events, she was undefeated, and her average time was under 8 hours.
In 1987 Kiddy was named to the newly-formed Ultrarunning Subcommittee of TAC/USA (which later became USA Track & Field). She was instrumental in setting policies and standards for the selection of USA national championships and teams for the next 10 years.
Once into her 50’s, Kiddy became hampered by a persistent hamstring injury and seriously curtailed her racing. But she re-emerged with a 6:34:28 50 miler in 1991, which qualified her for the USA National team to the 1992 World 100km in Palamos, Spain. She became, at age 55, the most senior athlete ever named to an open USA national team, and was leading the American contingent until the last few miles in the World title race. She finished as second American scorer on the 4th placing American women’s team, running 8:42:36, a world age-group record.
Sandra Kiddy, now in her late 60’s and in retirement, still runs recreationally for an hour a day.