1967 Photo credit: Boston Herald | Featured contemporary image photo credit: Hagen Hopkins 2017
Running a marathon will make your uterus fall out. Or maybe you’ll grow chest hair. Actually, no, but that’s what they told “Marathon Woman” Kathrine Switzer when she wanted to run the Boston Marathon in 1967. She ran it, anyway, despite iconic objections. And yesterday, the 70-year-old #261 was the honorary starter for the women’s elite race and finished under qualifying time, 4:44:31, with an average mile of 10:51.
In 1967, Switzer was the first woman to finish the Boston Marathon. She wore lipstick and earrings, too, so style props for you, Switzer! But Switzer wasn’t the only woman—or even the first—to complete the Boston Marathon that year. Bobbi Gibb, who had run the race unofficially in 1966, was on the course in 1967 and finished ahead of Switzer at 3:27:17. Switzer was disqualified for no reason other than being a woman—go figure.
However, Switzer’s race was not in vain. She became an international feminist figure and went on to have a noteworthy athletic career. She ran 39 marathons and won the New York City race. In her spare time, she organized the Avon International Running Circuit, a series of women’s-only races. In 2011, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
Oh yeah, and she also wrote a book, Marathon Woman, about her groundbreaking experience.
Today, women comprise half the field in the Boston Marathon, which did not officially open to women until 1972. Maybe that would have happened, anyway, but Switzer showed the world that women could excel at the sport.
If you’re inspired by Switzer, check out 261 Fearless, the nonprofit she created to provide running clubs and, among other fine projects, “offers a safe and secure global running community for women—inclusive of ability, body-type, religion, ethnicity or socio-economic status.”
Kathrine Switzer, we thank you for your bold and inspiring service.