By Ken Reed
Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the first bibbed female runner in the Boston Marathon. For decades, the Boston Marathon was for men only. Katherine Switzer said that’s ridiculous and entered the race in 1967 under the name K.V. Switzer.
Early on, the co-race director, Jock Temple discovered her running in the marathon and tried to shove her off the course while also attempting to pull her bib number off. Switzer’s boyfriend gave Temple a vicious shoulder block and the 20-year-old Switzer was able to continue and finish the race at a time in history when women were thought to be too fragile for long-distance running (and many other sports for that matter).
Switzer finished the race in 4:20 that chilly spring day. Monday, at age 70, Switzer ran the Boston Marathon again in 4:44:31. She’s competed in 30 marathons during her life, winning New York in 1974 in 3:07:29. She hadn’t run the Boston race since 1976. But she started the Boston Marathon yesterday with the same bib number she used in 1967: 261. That number was retired after she finished yesterday — just the second number retired by the Boston Marathon.
Switzer credits her father for providing early inspiration for her sports career:
“I’ll never forget, I came home from school one day and said to my parents, ‘I’m going to be a high school cheerleader next year when I go to high school.’ And without missing a beat, my father said, ‘You don’t want to be a cheerleader. Cheerleaders cheer for other people. You want people to cheer for you. The game is on the field. Life is to participate, not to spectate.’”
Switzer’s father made it very clear that his daughter could do anything — and become anything — her heart and mind desired — sports-wise, career-wise, and other-wise. His core message: Don’t EVER let your gender stop you!
Check out the very cool 6-minute video on Katherine Switzer and what she did for girls and women 50 years ago (including shots of the race director trying to knock her off the course). She’s interviewed by former Team USA soccer star Julie Foudy, another Title IX hero, in this ESPN feature.
This story’s something both genders can cheer about: Equal opportunity.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of FansPrint
- League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.