A story told by “A Mighty Girl” (which is a group) on the eponymous Facebook page.
In celebration of today’s Boston Marathon, we’re sharing the dramatic story of the first woman to officially run the historic race. Kathrine Switzer’s experience is a revealing illustration of the barriers that trailblazing women athletes had to overcome and of how far girls and women in sports have come in only a few decades.
In 1967, Switzer was a 20-year-old college student at Syracuse University when she registered for the race using her initials, K.V. Switzer. Not realizing that she was a woman, who were barred from participating in the Boston Marathon for over 70 years, race officials issued her an entry number.
During the race, marathon official Jock Semple attempted to physically remove Switzer from the marathon after discovering she was female. Other runners, including Switzer’s boyfriend Tom Miller, blocked Semple and she was able to complete the marathon. Pictures of the incident and the story of Switzer’s participation in the marathon made global headlines.
After the marathon, Switzer became deeply engaged in efforts to increase girls’ and women’s access to sports and she and other women runners finally convinced the Boston Athletic Association to drop their discriminatory policies and allow women to participate in 1972. By 2011, nearly 43 percent of Boston Marathon entrants were female. Switzer also helped lead the drive for the inclusion of a women’s marathon in the Olympic Games — a victory which was achieved at long last with the first women’s marathon at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
It seems so outlandish now. It’s not a contact sport, there’s plenty of oxygen for all; why on earth were women kept out?