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 Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #32 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Prolific Author Joe Posnanski Joins the Show – Posnanski is one of America’s best sportswriters and has twice been named the best sports columnist in America by the Associated Press Sports Editors. We chat about his new book, “Why We Love Baseball,” his new Substack newsletter called Joe Blogs, and we cover topics including how baseball treats its fans, MLB’s numerous rule changes this past season, how the sport can become more fan-friendly, the greatness of Negro Leagues champion Buck O’Neil, and much more.
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Episode #31 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Foul Ball Safety Is Still an Important Issue at Ballparks – Our guests are Jordan Skopp, founder of FoulBallSafety.com and Greg Wilkowski, a Chicago based attorney. We discuss the historical problem of foul balls injuring fans and why some teams are still hesitant to put up protective netting in some minor league and college baseball parks.
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
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.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon