Something new I have decided to try it’s blogging about other runners who inspire me. There are a few I would like to talk about but I cannot think of a better person to start with than Katherine Switzer.
As a 19 year old journalism student Katherine started running unofficially with the men’s Syracuse University cross country team as there were no women’s running teams. Inspired by her coach, Arnie Briggs, she said she would like to run the Boston Marathon even though no woman had ever officially run the distance and many people at the time didn’t think it was possible. In fact women were actively discouraged from running long distances as it was believed it would make them less feminine, or even that their uteruses might fall out!
Arnie said he would support her if she could do the distance and in training she managed to run 31 miles. With the support of herd mentor she checked the rule book, it said nothing about gender, and sent off her form under the name K V Switzer.
I wasn’t running Boston to prove anything; I was just a kid who wanted to run her first marathon.
On the day of the race other competitors noticed she was a girl at the start line and even said how great it was to see her competing with them. She started the race with no problems, never hiding who she was but it is possible that no one realised she was a girl under her baggy sweatshirt.
At mile 4 she was passed by a press truck, who were all very excited to see a woman competing. It was then that a race official grabbed her shoulders and started shouting at her whilst trying to rip the numbers off her vest. Arnie and her boyfriend, Tom, blocked her from his attack and told her to keep running which she did.
Despite being shaken she went on to finish the race in 4 hours 20. Thus proving to everyone that girls could run if they wanted to. It still took until 1984 for women to be allowed to compete at the marathon distance in the Olympics.
The press were of course waiting for her when she finished and I for one love her responses to their questions;
“What made you do it?” (I like to run, the longer the better.) “Oh come on, why Boston, why wear numbers?” (Women deserve to run, too. Equal rights and all that, you know.) “Will you come back to run again?” (Yes.) “They will ban your club.” (Then we’ll change the name of our club.) “Are you a suffragette?” (Huh? I thought we got the right to vote in 1920!)
If you would like to read more about this amazing woman who has inspired generations of women to lace up their shoes and run you can read the whole story in her own words here.