Kathrine Switzer Ran the Boston Marathon and Changed Women’s Sports Forever [VIDEO]
July 17, 2013 2 Comments
I’ve always been inspired by great women who do ordinary things that make a big impact. Think Anne Frank, a girl whose diary opened our eyes to the horrors of the holocaust; Rosa Parks, a woman who sat on a bus to protest unfair treatment of blacks; or Kathrine Switzer, a woman who just wanted to run.
The year before she ran the race, another young woman, Bobbi Gibb, ran in 1966. Gibb had trained for two years, running 40 to 50 miles per day in clunky nurse’s shoes. When she sent in her entry form from San Diego, California where she attended college, she was denied entry by Will Cloney, the race’s director at the time. He claimed it was because it had been deemed medically dangerous for women to run long distances in those day.
Undeterred, Gibb went to Boston anyway and hid in the bushes near the starting pen, wearing her brother’s Bermuda shorts, a swimsuit and a hooded sweater. When the race started, she slipped in among the throngs of men and they welcomed her to the race, even if she wasn’t officially entered. She finished the marathon ahead of two-thirds of the other runners.
The following year, Gibb ran again, but Switzer took the bold move and entered, signing only her initials rather than her full name. When race official Jock Semple realized that Switzer was a woman running with the number 261, he physically tried to throw her out of the race. But both Switzer’s coach and boyfriend protected her from harm and she finished the race in four hours and 20 minutes. When asked why she did it, she said she merely wanted to run.
It was another five years before the Boston Marathon officially allowed women to participate in the race. But ever since 1967, Switzer has been an activist for social change and was inducted into the USA National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2011. Her legacy helped break down barriers for women and thus changed the face of sports forever. So the next time you enter a marathon, remember the names Kathrine Switzer and Bobbi Gibb, two women who became heroes simply because they loved to run.