How Michelle Sike’s experience winning the 2007 outdoor 5000m national championship led to her writing the first academic monograph about women’s sports history in Africa.

Sikes’s story centers around how her collegiate running career is inextricably linked to her first book, Kenya’s Running Women: A History, published in December 2023. This is the first academic monograph to focus on the history of any women’s sport in Africa.

Back when she was in her collegiate years, Sikes became a Rhodes Scholar and the 2007 NCAA outdoor 5K national champion. The story of her surprise win in that race over Sally Kipyego—who was dominating the longer distances that year and would go on to become an Olympic medalist—is outstanding all on its own; it’s a classic underdog story. (It’s also noteworthy that Michelle was coached by women all the way up through her first year as a pro, which is almost her entire running career.)

It was in fact that NCAA victory that led Sikes to focus her graduate studies on the pioneering women runners of Kenya, and then tell their stories in her just published book. As Sikes says, “History matters.”

Sikes is now an Assistant Professor of Kinesiology, African Studies, and History at Penn State. This summer, she’ll be teaching an African sport history class and Kenya’s Running Women will be part of the curriculum.

Hear the whole story in this episode.

Mentioned in this Episode

Kenya’s Running Women: A History:

“Long hours, poor pay, discrimination: Why the number of women in collegiate coaching remains low” by Alison Wade for Fast Women:

Sally Kipyego: Becoming a Mother Runner, Navigating Pregnancy Toward a Bid for the Olympics:

Molly Huddle: 2023 NYC Marathon, Postpartum Bone Health, and What Comes Next:

Race Report: Molly Huddle + 2022

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