Kathrine Switzer, Marathon Woman
“I didn’t intend to make a political statement when I ran the Boston Marathon in 1967. I was just a girl who wanted to run. Since there were few women’s sports in those days, I was training with the men’s team at Syracuse University. When I told Arnie Briggs, an assistant coach who’d run 15 Boston Marathons, that I too wanted to run Boston, he said women weren’t capable of running 26 miles. But he said he’d take me if I proved I could do it. When we ran 31 miles together and he fainted, he was convinced. He insisted I officially sign up for the race, and there was nothing about gender on the entry form. I signed it as I always sign my name: K. V. Switzer.
It was sleeting on race day, and everyone was bundled up in gray sweatsuits. Two miles into the race, the press truck came by. Jock Semple, the race’s co-director, was riding with the press and lost his temper when he saw me, a girl, wearing race numbers. He leapt from the vehicle, grabbed me, and screamed, “Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers!” I was terrified and jumped away, but he held my shirt. Arnie was shouting at him to leave me alone, but it was my boyfriend, Tom, who tossed Jock out of the race.
I still had to run 24 miles, and you can’t run 24 miles and remain angry. I realized then that the problem here wasn’t just Jock Semple—the problem was a lack of opportunity for women, and myths of danger and limitation that held us back. By the time I finished, I knew I was going to spend much of my life both proving that women deserve the opportunities to run, and creating them. I came back again and again to Boston to run, helping to make women official there in 1972, organizing a global women’s running program, and, in 1984, leading the drive to get the women’s marathon into the Olympic Games.”
—Kathrine Switzer, author of three books, including her memoir, Marathon Woman. She has run 39 marathons, eight of them in Boston.
Bobbi Gibb is recognized by the Boston Athletic Association as heralding the pre-sanctioned era as the women’s winner in 1966. Kathrine Switzer is known for being the first woman to run the Boston Marathon as a numbered entry in 1967. It was not until 1972 that women were welcome to run the Boston Marathon officially.