It’s hard to believe that in 1967 not only were women not welcome at the marathon, but also it was thought that they couldn’t even run that far. According to her memoir, Marathon Woman, Kathrine’s coach at Syracuse University told her the distance was too long for “fragile women” and that “no dame ever ran the Boston Marathon!” But he promised that he would take her to Boston if she could run the distance in practice.
No Is Not in Her Vocabulary
Switzer flew under the radar by registering under the name “K. V. Switzer.” However, a few miles into the run, race director Jock Semple spotted her running in the crowd and chased after her. According to Switzer, “He grabbed me…threw me back and he said, ‘Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers. And he tried to pull my bib numbers off.”
The moment was captured in now iconic photos that have become a symbol of sexism in sports. But Switzer was able to pull away and keep running, finishing the race in four hours and 20 minutes. On Monday, when she ran the race again (at age 70!) — she wore the same numbers again — 261. Those numbers now represent bravery and tenacity in the face of a challenge for female runners everywhere. The Boston Marathon announced that they would retire Switzer’s number in her honor.
A Hero and Inspiration for Women Runners
Thanks to Switzer, women no longer face the same barriers they once did when it comes to running. She created the Avon International Running Circuit of women’s-only races in 27 countries, with more than a million women participating from 1978 to the present. It was this series of events that helped convince the International Olympic Committee to include the women’s marathon in the 1984 Olympic Games. She also formed 261 Fearless, a global community of women walkers, joggers and runners bound together with strength, power and fearlessness. For more about 261 Fearless, click here: http://www.261fearless.org/
We applaud Switzer’s efforts and contributions to the women’s running community and love the example she set and the values she represents. “My message to young girls is that you can do much more than you ever can imagine,” Switzer said after this year’s race. “The only way you can imagine it is to do it. To take the first step. And if you take the first step, you can then take three steps. And then you can take 10. And someday maybe you can run a marathon. And if you can run a marathon, you can do anything.”