Five decades after she made history as the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, Kathrine Switzer laced up her sneakers and hit the pavement once more in the famous race.
“I finished, like I did 50 years ago. We are here to change the life of women. Just imagine what’s gonna happen in 50 years!” Switzer wrote on Facebook after completing the marathon.
At the age of 70, Switzer finished the 26.2-mile race with a time of 4:44:31, only 24 minutes slower than the 4 hours and 20 minutes that she clocked in at age 20 during the 1967 competition.
During that race, however, she was competing against more than just the course and herself, but history as well.
At that time, only men had competed in the Boston Marathon. Avid runner Switzer entered the race as “K.V. Switzer” and she was accepted as a competitor.
“The marathon was a man’s race in those days; women were considered too fragile to run it,” Switzer wrote in an essay for The New York Times.
Her involvement in the race, perhaps, would have been quiet if it hadn’t been for race manager Jock Semple who attempted to literally push her off the course. A group of runners (including Switzer’s boyfriend) thwarted the official’s efforts allowing Switzer to continue and ultimately finish the race.
Her ground-breaking race was recently the subject of an ESPN “SC Featured” story.
“I knew if I quit, nobody would ever believe that women had the capability to run 26-plus miles,” she wrote in her memoir. “If I quit, everybody would say it was a publicity stunt. If I quit, it would set women’s sports back, way back, instead of forward. If I quit, I’d never run Boston. If I quit, Jock Semple and all those like him would win. My fear and humiliation turned to anger.”
Switzer returned to the race eight more times, including the 2017 competition. Following this year’s race, her bib number 261 was retired from any future Boston Marathons.
“Today is the race of my life. After all the marathons I’ve run, this may be the most important of all. Who would have imagined, 50 years later and still toeing the line!” she wrote on Facebook before the race.
“What a privilege to be here, to even have the opportunity to try. Even though this is going to be hard, I’m the luckiest woman in the world to be here, surrounded by 261 Fearless friends and supporters.”
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(Photo credit: 261 Fearless)