Merry Lepper (born December 31, 1942) is a former American long-distance runner from California who is recognized by the International Association of Athletics Federations as having set a world best in the marathon on December 16, 1963, with a time of 3:37:07 at the Western Hemisphere Marathon in Culver City, California.[nb 1]
In the early 1960s, Lepper trained with Lyn Carman (also from California)[nb 2]and the pair began to run unofficially in road races. At the 1963 Western Hemisphere Marathon, the two women hid along the sidelines then joined the men just after the start. A race official attempted to remove them from the course and Carman reportedly yelled, "I have the right to use public streets for running!" The women were timed by a sympathetic AAU official; Carman eventually dropped out around the 20 mile mark, but Lepper finished with a time of 3:37:07 .
The book "Marathon Crasher: The Life and Times of Merry Lepper, the First American Woman to Run a Marathon" (2012), by LA-based sports journalist David Davis, tells of Merry Lepper's 1963 marathon. However, in 1959, Arlene Pieper (also an American) became the first woman to officially finish a marathon in America when she finished the Pikes Peak Marathon. Davis's book states, "Without discounting her [Pieper's] achievement, Pikes Peak marathon is considered to be more of an endurance climb, with much walking involved, as opposed to a competitive marathon race." 
In 2013, Lepper received a commendation from Culver City. The commendation reads in part: "Now, therefore, the City Council of the City of Culver City, California, hereby congratulates and commends Merry Lepper, a shining example of how one person can overcome tremendous hurdles to fulfill a dream and, in the process, pave the way for generations to come." 
- According to the Association of Road Racing Statisticians, the course for the Western Hemisphere Marathon was short in 1962 and 1963. The ARRS also notes the date of the race as December 14, 1963.
- Carman has been reported as also being in her early 20s, however, data compiled by the Association of Road Racing Statisticians indicates that she would have been 27 years old.
- Rabe, John. "Fifty Years Later, A Celebration For Merry Lepper's Historic Marathon". Retrieved 14 December 2013.
- Rabe, John (December 12, 2013). "50 years later, Culver City honors first female marathoner". Southern California Public Radio. Retrieved June 17, 2019.
- "12th IAAF World Championships In Athletics: IAAF Statistics Handbook. Berlin 2009" (PDF). Monte Carlo: IAAF Media & Public Relations Department. 2009. p. 653. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 29, 2011. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
- Noakes, Tim (2003). The Lore of Running (Fourth ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 675. ISBN 0-87322-959-2.
- "Western Hemisphere Marathon". Association of Road Racing Statisticians. Retrieved May 10, 2010.
The 1962-63 courses are considered to have been short.
- "World Marathon Rankings for 1963". Association of Road Racing Statisticians. Retrieved May 10, 2010.
- Kuscsik, Nina (1977), "The History of Women's Participation in the Marathon", Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 301 (The Marathon: Physiological, Medical, Epidemiological, and Psychological Studies): 862–876, Bibcode:1977NYASA.301..862K, doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.1977.tb38253.x
- Anderson, Ruth (1978). The Complete Woman Runner. World Publications.
- "The Fight To Establish The Women's Marathon Race". www.marathonguide.com. Retrieved 2019-06-17.
- "Santa Barbara Marathon". Association of Road Racing Statisticians. Retrieved May 10, 2010.
- Rabe, John (June 5, 2012). "Merry Lepper, first American woman to run a marathon: 1963, Culver City". Southern California Public Radio. Retrieved June 17, 2019.
- www.amazon.com https://www.amazon.com/Marathon-Crasher-Lepper-American-ebook/dp/B0080K36TY/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1338924717&sr=1-1. Retrieved 2019-06-17. Missing or empty
- First woman to run marathon in US - PPM
- "House put - Arlenepieper". Retrieved 2019-06-17.
- Davis, David (2012-06-05). Marathon Crasher: The Life and Times of Merry Lepper, the First American Woman to Run a Marathon. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 9781466817104.
| Women's Marathon World Record Holder
December 16, 1963* – May 23, 1964
(*see explanation in the Notes section)