Ladies and gentlemen, do you know who broke the gender barrier in marathoning? You should.
If you’re a woman and you run, you might take for granted that you are able to enter road races around the country, that you can run outside without odd stares or shouts, and that you have thousands of choices when it comes to clothing and accessories made just for you. But not too long ago, women were shunned from running. It took the courage of many women to challenge the status quo and fight to be included in the sport, especially the courageous acts of one woman, Kathrine Switzer, who simply wanted to run.
In 1967, the Boston Marathon was (as it remains today) one of the most revered running events in the world, yet women were not allowed to participate. Plain and simple, running was a man’s sport. “The idea of running long distance was always considered, you know, very questionable for women,” Switzer explained in an interview with PBS for the documentary MAKERS: Women who Make America.
Switzer wanted to run in the Boston Marathon, so she signed up using just her initials instead of her first name. She input K.V. Switzer in the name field, simply signing up — and making it impossible for race officials to see that she was a female on her entry form.
During the race, official Jock Semple famously tried to knock Switzer off the course, telling her to get out of his race. He was unsuccessful and Switzer ended up finishing. She had no idea the national controversy that she had started.
Five years later, in 1972, women were officially allowed to enter the Boston Marathon.
Switzer can certainly be credited with helping to speed along the process of getting women included in running events. She championed the cause, an incredible journey you can read about in her book Marathon Woman. 2012 marked the 40th anniversary of the official inclusion of women in the marathon and the 45th anniversary of Switzer’s legendary crashing of the Boston Marathon.
Today, women are a dominant force in running, with a record-setting 8.6 million female road race finishers in the U.S. during 2012.
This can certainly be credited to the women’s running pioneers, including Kathrine Switzer.
Celebrate Switzer and the other great women’s running champions by lacing up your shoes and going for a run today.