Fifty years ago, a runner officially entered as K.V. Switzer (with gender undisclosed) participated in the Boston Marathon. On 17th April, she did it again at age 70.
Kathrine Switzer’s marathon in 1967 became historic because she was the first woman to complete the all-male race as an official entrant — her registration as “K.V. Switzer”. The race resonated far beyond a footnote in the record books when an official tried to force her from the course after a few miles.
“The marathon was a man’s race in those days; women were considered too fragile to run it,” she wrote in an essay for The New York Times 10 years ago. “But I had trained hard and was confident of my strength. Still, it took a body block from my boyfriend to knock the official off the course.” Switzer recovered to finish in 4 hours 20 minutes.
Switzer completed this year’s race only a little slower, in 4:44:31.
“It was awesome out there,” she told The Boston Globe. “I just hope my good time today wasn’t just because of the tailwind.”
Over the years, Switzer has competed in more than 30 marathons, winning New York in 1974 in 3:07:29, and has worked as a television commentator. She is the founder of 261 Fearless, a running club for women. The name comes from the number she wore in 1967.
Switzer, who had not run Boston since 1976, started this year’s marathon on 17th April wearing the same number. It was retired after the race — just the second number that the marathon has retired. Before her start, she was given the honor of firing the gun for the women’s elite runners.
She has said she hopes to run New York this year as well.
Of her legacy as a pioneer, she wrote in The Times: “We learned that women are not deficient in endurance and stamina, and that running requires no fancy facilities or equipment. Women’s marathoning has created a global legacy.”
This article was first published in The New York Times