In doing so, Chase defied the Amateur Athletic Union, the governing body of the sport in the U.S., which wouldn't let women race more than a half-mile. She defied doctors who said women couldn't run long distances because it would damage their reproductive organs.
She defied a society that believed that women athletes, runners especially, would become unattractive and unable to have children.
She was 19. She just wanted to run.
Chase, now 63, is the honorary chairman of today's Manchester Road Race, the 69th running of the Thanksgiving Day race that draws about 11,000 runners and walkers. Last year, more than 5,000 were female.
In 1961, there were Chase and two others. And they were not welcome.
"It was clear this is what I loved doing and there was no reason not to," said Chase, now Dr. Julia Chase-Brand, a psychiatrist from Leonia, N.J. "The rule was there and it had to be challenged. I think about it now and I think, `What was I thinking? I could have been banned for life.' I put my career on the line. I knew full well that that's what had to be done."
The story splashed across the country's sports pages, before and after the race.
"Why Does Julia Keep Running After Men?" read the headline in the sports pages of the Nov. 30, 1961, Cleveland Press.
The story began: "A 19-year-old college girl who runs after men is making newspaper headlines across the country. ... She is ... in the race for time and not for a mate."
Life Magazine did a spread on her. Sports Illustrated followed her around days before Thanksgiving. She gave an interview a day leading up to the race, the phone in her Smith College dormitory ringing off the hook.
Chase-Brand never knew it would be so complicated when she started running four years earlier.
Watching And Waiting
John J. Kelley, the Olympian from Groton, used to run a 3-mile loop on a golf course every day. He liked the way the turf felt under his feet and the golfers didn't care as long as he stayed out of their way.
In 1957, Chase-Brand saw him at 6 a.m. on her way to church with her father during Lent. She was enthralled.
"My father told me who he was and what he was doing," Chase-Brand said. "He told me about running and the Boston Marathon."
That spring, Kelley became the first American since John A. Kelley in 1945 to win the Boston Marathon.
One day out on the golf course, he noticed two teenage girls sitting on a wall, watching.
"I was so intent on my goal of racing in the marathon, I was teaching junior high school in Groton, the last thing I was going to do was to go chat with them," said Kelley, who lives in Mystic. "They would wave. I would wave back. Then one day they followed me around the course and came up to me."