Gloria Ratti, former vice-president of the Boston Athletic Association, dies at 90


Gloria Ratti, a female running champion who went from volunteering at the finish line of the Boston Marathon to vice president of the running organization, has died at age 90.

A historical marathon staple for decades, Ratti died on Saturday after “a courageous battle with cancer,” the Boston Athletic Association said.

“Gloria was essentially the first lady of our sport no matter where she went,” Guy Morse, former BAA executive director, said in a statement. “From champions to regular runners, Gloria has personally looked after everyone and represented the human side of running. “

A native of South Boston, Ratti began volunteering at the marathon finish line in the 1960s after her husband Charlie became an avid runner. She is credited with making crucial changes to improve athlete timing and promote gender equality.

It was Ratti who pushed race officials to record the names and finish times of all runners, not just the top 100, according to the BAA. In the 1970s – after the race officially allowed women to compete – Ratti advocated for better support for female athletes and developed a checkpoint system to track their times throughout the course.

When the race began awarding prizes in 1986, Ratti fought to ensure women received the same amounts as men, the BAA said.

“The real strength of nature was the employment of high standards and a commitment to excellence,” said Tom Grilk, President and CEO of BAA, in a statement. “With Gloria, it was this very strong personal commitment to excellence, to doing things the best they can be and the way they should be done.”

Outside of the marathon, Ratti has spent more than four decades in a CIA career, traveling the world and reaching the post of chief clerk, the BAA said. After retiring from the CIA in 1993, she joined the marathon full-time and later became a historian, archivist, vice-president and secretary of its BAA board of directors.

On race days she was an energetic force that could be found to keep things going from start to finish. She would escort dignitaries around the start area at Hopkinton and then make sure politicians knew the correct way to place the traditional olive wreath on the heads of champions, according to the race organization.

“Gloria may not have been an athlete, but she had tremendous endurance, especially during race week,” Joann Flaminio, who served as BAA’s first female president, said in a statement. “She was the first to arrive and the last to leave at every event.”

The BAA says that Ratti, who was predeceased by her husband, died surrounded by her family.

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