Katherine Switzer’s ninth run at the Boston Marathon was a lot easier than her first and much more celebrated.
I wrote about K.V. Switzer’s (the name she used to register for the race) in The Resilience Advantage. Her gritty first effort at that storied event 50 years ago, when women were not permitted to enter the Marathon, transformed long distance running. Her training that occurred during the cold New England winter of 1967 led to her quiet start where she hoped she would not be discovered.
At about the 11-mile mark, she was seen by the local media who immediately reported her presence on the streets of Boston. Race coordinator Jock Semple, determined to get her “out of my race” tried to pull the numbers (261) off her sweatshirt only to be tackled by Katherine’s boyfriend who was a college football player. Shaken but determined, she finished the race and proved that women could run 26 miles and beyond.
Katherine used her notoriety to form her own non-profit organization, “261 Fearless” that uses the power of running to help women connect and take charge of their own lives. Her efforts have created a global community of women runners.
It is never easy to break social mores. People thought that women could suffer irreversible damage if they ran in marathons. Katherine Switzer showed them that through her resilience and grit that women runners are empowered and embodied athletes.
© Richard Citrin, All rights reserved, 2017