You are never too old, young, big, small, tall or slow to run or walk 5km, as 6-year-old old Amelia Meyer and her 77-year-old grandmother Jennifer Mattson can happily testify.

On Mother's Day (May 8), the pair will be on the startline together for WhyWomenRun 2016 - the oldest women's-only running event in Auckland and possibly New Zealand, says race director Helen Meyer.

Watching her daughter and mother compete side-by-side at last year's event reminded Helen of the history of the event and what it means today.

"Back in 1978, the average woman was a mother, homemaker, sometimes a career person and played a small range of sports, mainly netball and hockey. Any running was done for fitness to assist in those sports; virtually no woman ran for fun and certainly very few entered events as women hadn't been allowed to enter previously," Meyer reflects.


Ironically, in a move that could be viewed today as condescending, the first iteration of WhyWomenRun (1978) was organised by the YMCA Marathon Club and sponsored by an cosmetics company Bonne Bell.

The company were revolutionary in their time. Despite women not being permitted to run marathons until the 1984 Olympics, Bonne Bell installed a running track at their South Caroline factory and began sponsoring women's running events in the 1970s. Their corporate goal: "To encourage young women to express their inner beauty as well as their outer beauty."

Nearly 40 years later, the event continues to be delivered by the Auckland YMCA Marathon Club and aims to promote and encourage women of all abilities and fitness levels to participate in an outdoor sporting event. Participants choose to run or walk one or two 5km laps starting and finishing at the Cornwall Park Sports Association clubrooms. The entry fee is deliberately kept low to ensure it is affordable for most women.

Little Amelia Meyer is excited to take part in the event again this year.

"What I like best about the event is running fast, because Grandma has to keep up," she says with a grin.

Keeping up shouldn't prove too much of a problem for septuagenarian Jennifer Mattson who hopes to complete her 20th Rotorua Marathon the weekend before WhyWomenRun.

For race director Helen, the best part of a busy day is watching first-timers cross the finish line.

"Some of the women who come to WhyWomenRun are doing an event for the first time, they are just starting their exercise journey.

"I love seeing their faces as they cross the line - they have done something they maybe never thought they could do - and that is just wonderful.

"I think running or walking 5km is completely achievable for most people - it comes down to a desire to step outside your comfort zone."