Kathrine Switzer

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Kathrine Switzer
Kathrine Switzer at the 2011 Berlin Marathon Expo.jpg
Kathrine Switzer at the 2011 Berlin Marathon expo
Born (1947-01-05) January 5, 1947 (age 72)
Amberg, Germany
EducationGeorge C. Marshall High School
Alma materSyracuse University
OccupationRunner and author
Spouse(s)Tom Miller (1968–1973)
Philip Schaub
Roger Robinson (1987–)

Kathrine Virginia "Kathy" Switzer (born January 5, 1947, in Amberg, Germany[1]) is an American marathon runner, author, and television commentator.[2]

In 1967, she became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon as a numbered entrant. During her run, race official Jock Semple attempted to stop Switzer and grab her official bib; however, he was shoved to the ground by Switzer's boyfriend, Thomas Miller, who was running with her, and she completed the race. It was not until 1972 that women were allowed to run the Boston Marathon officially.[3]

Life and career[edit]

Kathrine Switzer was born in Amberg, Germany, the daughter of a major in the United States Army. Her family returned to the United States in 1949.[4] She graduated from George C. Marshall High School in Fairfax County, Virginia, then attended Lynchburg College.[5] She transferred to Syracuse University in 1967, where she studied journalism and English literature.[6][5] She earned a bachelor's degree there in 1968 and a master's degree in 1972.

1967 Boston Marathon[edit]

After her coach insisted a marathon was too far to run for a "fragile woman",[7] Switzer trained for and completed the 1967 Boston Marathon under entry number 261 with the Syracuse Harriers athletic club.[6] It was another five years before women were officially allowed to compete. Her finishing time of approximately 4 hours and 20 minutes was nearly an hour behind the first female finisher, Bobbi Gibb, who ran unregistered.[8] She registered under the gender-neutral "K. V. Switzer", which she said was not done to mislead the officials. She stated she had long used "K. V. Switzer" to sign the articles she wrote for her university paper.[9] She also stated that her name had been misspelled on her birth certificate, so she often used her initials to avoid confusion.[10] Photographs of race official Jock Semple attempting to rip Switzer's number off were widespread in the media.[11]

Switzer was issued a number through an "oversight" in the entry screening process, and was treated as an interloper when the error was discovered.[12] Semple attempted to physically remove her from the race while shouting, "Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers!"[13] Switzer's boyfriend, Tom Miller, a 235-pound ex-All American football player and nationally ranked hammer thrower who was running with her, shoved Semple aside and sent him flying to the pavement, allowing her to proceed.[14][15][16] Photographs taken of the incident made world headlines.[9][17]

Afterward, Boston Athletic Association director Will Cloney was asked his opinion of Switzer competing in the race. Cloney said, "Women can't run in the Marathon because the rules forbid it. Unless we have rules, society will be in chaos. I don't make the rules, but I try to carry them out. We have no space in the Marathon for any unauthorized person, even a man. If that girl were my daughter, I would spank her."[6]

Because of her run, the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) barred women from all competitions with male runners, with violators losing the right to compete in any races.[18] Switzer, with other women runners, tried to convince the Boston Athletic Association to allow women to participate in the marathon. Finally, in 1972, women were officially allowed to run the Boston Marathon for the first time.[3]

According to Switzer, she understood the gravity of her participation and accomplishment:

I knew if I quit, nobody would ever believe that women had the capability to run 26-plus miles. If I quit, everybody would say it was a publicity stunt. If I quit, it would set women's sports back, way back, instead of forward. If I quit, I'd never run Boston. If I quit, Jock Semple and all those like him would win. My fear and humiliation turned to anger.[19]

Later competition, work, and honors[edit]

Switzer was the women's winner of the 1974 New York City Marathon, with a time of 3:07:29 (59th overall).[20][21] Her personal best time for the marathon distance is 2:51:37, at Boston in 1975.[22]

Switzer was named Female Runner of the Decade (1967–77) by Runner's World Magazine and later became a television commentator for marathons, starting with the 1984 Olympic women's marathon, and received an Emmy for her work.[3][23] In 1979, the Supersisters trading card set was produced and distributed; one of the cards featured Switzer's name and picture.[24]

She wrote Running and Walking for Women over 40 in 1997. She released her memoir, Marathon Woman, in April 2007, on the 40th anniversary of her first running of the Boston Marathon. In April 2008, Marathon Woman won the Billie Award for journalism for its inspiring portrayal of women in sports.[25] When visiting the Boston Marathon, Switzer is glad to see other female runners:

When I go to the Boston Marathon now, I have wet shoulders—women fall into my arms crying. They're weeping for joy because running has changed their lives. They feel they can do anything.

— Kathrine Switzer, The Nation (2013)[26]

She was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 2011 for creating a social revolution by empowering women around the world through running.[3] Since 1967, she has worked to improve running opportunities for women in different parts of the world.[27]

In 2015 Kathrine Switzer launched her global non-profit 261 Fearless with an ambassador program, club training system and events. 261 Fearless uses running as the means to empower women to overcome life obstacles and embrace healthy living.[28][29]

For the 2017 Boston Marathon, bib number 261, the same number Switzer was assigned in 1967, was assigned to her as "Switzer, Kathrine V." This marked the 50th anniversary of her historic marathon. She was placed in wave 1 and corral 1 and finished in 4:44:31.[30] Also in 2017, the Boston Athletic Association announced it would not assign bib number 261 to any future runners, as an honor for Switzer.[31] It was her ninth Boston Marathon. She was leading a team of runners from her nonprofit, 261 Fearless, Inc., which she hopes will connect and empower women through running. And rather than being the only official woman in the race like in 1967, she was joined by over 13,700 women—almost half of the total runners.[32]

Also in 2017, she ran the New York City Marathon, which marked the first time she had run it since 1974; she finished in 4:48:21.[33]

In May 2018, Switzer was the commencement speaker at the 164th commencement of Syracuse University,[34][35] and received an honorary doctorate of humane letters degree.[36]

Personal life[edit]

In 1968, Switzer married Tom Miller, the man who had shoved officials for her while running the Boston Marathon in 1967. They divorced in 1973. Switzer married and divorced public relations executive Philip Schaub.[37] She later married British-born runner and author Roger Robinson in 1987.[38][39]


Year Competition Venue Position Notes
Representing the  United States
1974 New York City Marathon New York, United States 1st 3:07:29[20]
1975 Boston Marathon Boston, Massachusetts, United States 2nd 2:51:37[22]


  1. ^ Milde, Horst (June 2, 2010). "Kathrine Switzer and Roger Robinson visit the Berlin Sports Museum". German Road Races e.V. Archived from the original on March 8, 2014. Retrieved March 19, 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  2. ^ Lorge Butler, Sarah (April 12, 2012). "How Kathrine Switzer paved the way". ESPN-W. Retrieved July 13, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d Lodge, Denise (April 16, 2012). "Kathrine Switzer: Empowerment through Running". Impowerage Magazine. Retrieved May 10, 2012.
  4. ^ Milde, Horst (January 5, 2012). "Katherine Switzer 65 Jahre - GRATULATION der Laufpionierin!". German Road Races e.V. (in German). Archived from the original on March 29, 2014. Retrieved March 19, 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  5. ^ a b 1949-, Derderian, Tom (1996). Boston Marathon : the first century of the world's premier running event. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. p. 302. ISBN 0880114797. OCLC 33160969.
  6. ^ a b c "Lady With Desire to Run Crashed Marathon" (PDF). The New York Times. April 23, 1967. Archived from the original (pdf) on March 6, 2012. Retrieved November 2, 2014. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  7. ^ King, Jennifer (August 22, 2015). "First women graduate from US Army Ranger School as gender barriers continue to fall". Australian Broadcasting Commission. Archived from the original on August 22, 2015.
  8. ^ "BAA Marathon Results".
  9. ^ a b "1967 Boston Marathon: The Real Story - Kathrine Switzer - Marathon Woman". Archived from the original on March 22, 2017. Retrieved March 8, 2017. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  10. ^ Grinberg, Emanuella. "1st woman to officially run Boston Marathon to do it again 50 years later". CNN. Retrieved April 17, 2017.
  11. ^ Cope, Myron (April 22, 1968). "Angry Overseer Of The Marathon". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
  12. ^ Semple, Jock; Kelley, John J.; Murphy, Tom (1981). Just Call Me Jock: The Story of Jock Semple, Boston's Mr. Marathon. Waterford Publishing. pp. 7, 114–118. ISBN 978-0942052015.
  13. ^ Concannon, Joe (April 5, 1987). "1967: Semple Meets Switzer. Versions vary but everyone remembers that infamous marathon". Boston Globe.
  14. ^ Sarah Lorge Butler (April 12, 2012). "How Kathrine Switzer paved the way". ESPNW. Retrieved March 27, 2017.
  15. ^ "The Girl Who Started It All". Runner's World. March 6, 2007. Retrieved March 27, 2017.
  16. ^ Kathrine Switzer (April 16, 2012). "Boston, 1967: When marathons were just for men". BBC. Retrieved March 27, 2017.
  17. ^ PBSAmerica (August 15, 2013). "MAKERS: Women Who Make America (Ep1) Awakening - PBS America" – via YouTube.
  18. ^ Romanelli, Elaine (1979). "Women in Sports and Games". In O'Neill, Lois Decker (ed.). The Women's Book of World Records and Achievements. Anchor Press. p. 576. ISBN 0-385-12733-2.
  19. ^ "1967 Boston Marathon: The Real Story - Kathrine Switzer - Marathon Woman". Archived from the original on March 22, 2017. Retrieved March 8, 2017. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  20. ^ a b Switzer, Kathrine (2007). Marathon Woman. New York: Carroll & Graf. p. 270. ISBN 978-0-7867-1967-9.
  21. ^ "Home". March 26, 2012.
  22. ^ a b Switzer, Kathrine (2007). Marathon Woman. New York: Carroll & Graf. p. 290. ISBN 978-0-7867-1967-9.
  23. ^ Tom Jackman (September 23, 2012). "Kathrine Switzer, Boston Marathon women's pioneer, started running in Dunn Loring, went to Marshall HS". Washington Post. Retrieved March 27, 2017.
  24. ^ Wulf, Steve (March 23, 2015). "Supersisters: Original Roster". ESPN. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  25. ^ "Kathrine Switzer Website". Retrieved April 15, 2014.
  26. ^ Zirin, Dave (April 15, 2013). "The Boston Marathon: All My Tears, All My Love". The Nation. Archived from the original on January 15, 2016. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  27. ^ "Boston, 1967: When marathons were just for men". BBC News. April 16, 2012. Retrieved May 1, 2012.
  28. ^ "Kathrine Switzer Launches Global Non-Profit 261 Fearless, Inc. with an Ambassador Program, Club Training System and Events". Running USA. October 20, 2015. Retrieved May 17, 2018.
  29. ^ "About 261 Fearless". 261 Fearless. Retrieved May 17, 2018.
  30. ^ "B.A.A. Marathon 2017: Entry List".
  31. ^ "Boston Marathon retires Bib No. 261 for women's pioneer". Miami Herald.
  32. ^ "The Boston Marathon: How Kathrine Switzer's 261 Became a Symbol for Women in Sports". Newsweek. April 16, 2017. Retrieved May 17, 2018.
  33. ^ "Kevin Hart gets serious, beats Tiki Barber in NYC Marathon". Washington Post.
  34. ^ "Kathrine Switzer picked to be Syracuse University commencement speaker". syracuse.com. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
  35. ^ "All the Details on Commencement 2018". SU News. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
  36. ^ "Three to Receive Honorary Degrees at 2018 Commencement". SU News. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
  37. ^ "When Avon Called, Kathy Switzer Gave Up the Marathon to Organize Women's Racing". People Magazine. May 28, 1979.
  38. ^ Switzer, Kathrine (2007). Marathon Woman. New York: Carroll & Graf. pp. 132–33, 203–04, 382–83. ISBN 978-0-7867-1967-9.
  39. ^ Lynch, M.A.C. (September 30, 2014). "Legendary Runners Slow Down Long Enough To Marry". Retrieved August 22, 2015.

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