In honor of today’s Boston Marathon, I wanted to write about the first woman to run Boston. Talk about Girl Power!
In 1967, Katherine Switzer was 20 years old and women were thought to be “too fragile to take on anything longer than a mile and a half.” (Source)
Switzer was a student at Syracuse University and was not allowed to join the X-Country team, however, she was invited to run and train with the team. Arnie Briggs, Syracuse coach, believed that a woman could not run 26 miles! Can you believe it? It was thought that women were not physically capable of running a marathon. After some back and forth, Briggs agreed that if Switzer could, in training, show that she could run the distance, then Briggs said he’d take her to Boston.
Switzer did a 31 mile training run but she worried about the things she couldn’t control–weather, blisters, hitting the wall–but she was confident and wasn’t out to prove anything. Rather, it was her reward for showing her coach that she could complete the distance.
She entered the run with only her initials so that organizers wouldn’t know she was a woman. Her boyfriend ran with her, but he had never run more than a mile! About 2 miles in, the race director tried to remove Switzer from the marathon. She crossed the finish line and was determined to create opportunities for women so they could experience the same power and energy that she felt running the marathon.
Motivated by the incident, Switzwer went on to run 35 marathons, won the 1974 New York City Marathon, and ran her personal best of 2:51.33 by finishing 2nd in the 1975 Boston Marathon. At the time, it was the 6th best women’s marathon time in the world, and 3rd in the United States. (Source)
The BBC World Service interviewed Switzer in March 2012–you can listen to her story online. She has written two books: Marathon Woman and Running and Walking for Women Over 40. She was named a Hero of Running in the January 2012 issue of Runner’s World and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
Now over 11,000 women run Boston each year–all of us past,present, and future marathoners have Switzer to thank for truly blazing the 26.2 miles for us.
Good luck to all of today’s runners–it’s going to be a hot one in Boston.
Who’s a trailblazer you admire?