Kathrine Switzer at the 2011 Berlin Marathon expo
January 5, 1947 |
|Education||George C. Marshall High School|
|Alma mater||Syracuse University|
|Occupation||Runner and author|
|Spouse(s)||Tom Miller (1968–1973)
Roger Robinson (1987–)
In 1967, she became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon as a numbered entry. 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.
Life and career
Switzer was born in Germany, the daughter of a major in the United States Army. Her family returned to the United States in 1949. She graduated from George C. Marshall High School in Fairfax County, Virginia, then attended Lynchburg College. She transferred to Syracuse University in 1967, where she studied journalism and English literature. She earned a bachelor's degree there in 1968 and a master's degree in 1972. In 1979, the Supersisters trading card set was produced and distributed; one of the cards featured Switzer's name and picture.
1967 Boston Marathon
After her coach insisted a marathon was too far to run for a "fragile woman", Switzer trained for and completed the 1967 Boston Marathon under entry number 261 with the Syracuse Harriers athletic club. 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. 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. She also stated that her name had been misspelled on her birth certificate, so she often used her initials to avoid confusion. Photographs of race official Jock Semple attempting to rip Switzer's number off were widespread in the media.
Switzer was issued a number through an "oversight" in the entry screening process, and was treated as an interloper when the error was discovered. Semple attempted to physically remove her from the race while shouting, "Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers!" 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. Photographs taken of the incident made world headlines.
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."
Because of her run, the AAU barred women from all competitions with male runners, with violators losing the right to compete in any races. 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.
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."
Later competition, work, and honors
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. 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. 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)
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. Since 1967, she has worked to improve running opportunities for women in different parts of the world.
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. Also in 2017, the Boston Athletic Association announced it would not assign bib number 261 to any future runners, as an honor for Switzer.
In 1968, Switzer married Tom Miller, the man who had blocked officials for her while running the Boston Marathon in 1967. They divorced in 1973. Switzer married and divorced public relations executive Philip Schaub. She later married British-born runner and author Roger Robinson in 1987.
|Representing the United States|
|1974||New York City Marathon||New York, United States||1st||3:07:29|
|1975||Boston Marathon||Boston, Massachusetts, United States||2nd||2:51:37|
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