Kathrine Switzer is a hero of the women’s rights movement. In 1967 she completed the Boston marathon which, at the time, was forbidden to women. The exclusion of her gender was not enough to keep her off the track. The avid runner signed up for the marathon using her initials K.W. The forms asked the applicants to specify her gender and Switzer was honest when she wrote hers down.
By some miracle, race officials overlooked her application and approved her to run. When it came time to participate Kathrine Switzer proudly began to run the marathon. She spread hope for all women in search of equal opportunity.
An Angry Official
A few miles in, an angry official bombarded Switzer yelling, “Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers!” He tried to get her off the track. In her memoir, she recalled this frightening moment; “I jerked my head around quickly and looked straight into the most vicious face I’d ever seen. A big man, a huge man, with bared teeth was set to pounce, and before I could react he grabbed my shoulder and flung me back, screaming.”
Switzer did not let this man stop her from achieving her goal. Her boyfriend ran the race right by her side. When he saw the official charging his girlfriend, he used his body to block the man and allow Switzer to continue doing what she loved, running.
Finishing the Race
4 hours and 20 minutes later, she became the first woman to officially complete the Boston Marathon. Switzer was a firm believer in the message tried to convey; women can run long distances and should be allowed to participate in marathons. She was placed in a scary situation, not knowing if someone else would try to attack her again.
When asked how she had the courage to continue after nearly being attacked she replies, “I knew if I dropped out no one would believe women could run distances and deserved to be in the Boston Marathon. They would just think that I was a clown and that women were barging into events where they had no ability.”
Still Running Years Later
Despite all the potential risks the “Marathon Woman” carried on to make history. Today she is a symbol of woman strength and serves as a role model for all female athletes that are told they’re just not good enough.
Switzer continued to run throughout her life, and 50 years later she ran the Boston Marathon once more. 70-year-old Switzer had a completely different experience the second time around. The crowd cheered her on with support, and this time, no one tried to attack her on her way to the finish line.