First Woman to Run in Boston Marathon Did It Again — 50 Years Later
A Boston Marathon official tried to hustle Kathrine Switzer, No. 261, off the course during the race in 1967. PAUL CONNELL / THE BOSTON GLOBE, VIA GETTY IMAGES
By VICTOR MATHER
APRIL 17, 2017
Fifty years ago, a runner officially entered as K.V. Switzer participated in the Boston Marathon. On Monday, 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” hid her gender. 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.
Kathrine Switzer was introduced before Monday’s marathon.
MARY SCHWALM / ASSOCIATED PRESS
“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.
50 years ago, Kathrine Switzer was the first woman to officially run #BostonMarathon Today she did it again.
Women were finally officially allowed to enter the Boston Marathon in 1972.
Women’s marathoning has come a long way, joining the Olympics in 1984 and gaining popularity through runners like Grete Waitz and Tegla Loroupe. More than half of marathon runners in the United States are women.
“In 1967, few would have believed that marathon running would someday attract millions of women, become a glamour event in the Olympics and on the streets of major cities, help transform views of women’s physical ability and help redefine their economic roles in traditional cultures,” Switzer wrote.
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 started this year’s marathon on Monday morning wearing the same number. It will be retired after the race. 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.”
Correction: April 17, 2017
An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to one of Switzer’s split times. She ran 10 kilometers, not 5, in 1:05:06.
As gender issues have increasingly become central to this election — from Trump’s taped “locker-room talk” to the wave of sexual-harassment allegations that followed — it’s been easy to start feeling hopeless. The excitement of a woman approaching the White House is tempered by the vile misogyny of her opponent, who will eagerly gaslight, humiliate, and exploit women in order to stop her getting there.
But there’s something of a silver lining to the nastiness. Trump’s egregious behavior — in addition to laying bare GOP misogyny — is making it impossible to ignore the ongoing realities of sexism in this country. And many women are seizing this moment to make their voices heard. As the presidential campaign enters its final throes, I spoke to nine women about how this election has moved them to fight back against misogyny in their own lives, and how they plan to carry that mission forward beyond November 8.
Piper, 24, digital archivist
“Not only is this my first time voting for a Democrat, but up until a few months ago, I was a red-blooded, rural, Christian conservative from North Dakota. For the first time, hearing the sexism, hatred, and fear in Trump’s message opened my eyes to the insidious ways that I had been allowing sexism and the patriarchy to govern my life, but had always made excuses for it, justified it, and managed to ignore it because it was in less-offensive packaging. While his words are like barbed wire, the message is the same when coming out of the bills and legislation from more reasonable party members. Now I can’t look away. Thanks to Trump, I’m a newly awoken woman and am proselytizing everyone in my family, my hometown, my (former) church, everyone from my old life: It’s easy to denounce a dog who’s barking this loudly, but whether he’s howling or not barking at all, he (and the party at large) are the same dog.
Everyone else in my life, though, has really engaged in the conversation and, for the first time, we’re willing to discuss the ‘sacred’ GOP in a critical light. My formerly conservative boyfriend has come with me on this journey and now freely admits to being a feminist himself, though a few months ago, before this election cycle, I think through perpetuated misinformation, he would have considered it a dirty or shameful word.”
Lani, 45, professor
“My female colleagues and I have an informal network to help us navigate the sexual predators or rampant misogynists in our midst. We will warn each other about the bad behavior in various departments so we can navigate ourselves and our students away from those places. It seems like the typical strategy of the powerless, doesn’t it?
I recently I got an email from somebody in one of these known departments. The email had a job and asked me to send potential candidates their way. Instead of ignoring it or deleting it like I might normally do, I decided to write back. I let the sender know that their department was known for having an unchecked sexual predator in their midst. I let the sender know that under no circumstances would I advise a junior colleague to take a position in the department given the nonresponse of the administration to complaints that I know were lodged by some of my colleagues there.
I am quite clear that this shift in my response comes out of my frustration at how women are continually silenced and how this response, in turn, manages to protect toxic bad behavior. But I also know that we often feel powerless because our complaints are met with nonresponses by universities. I hope that withholding potential strong candidates can incentivize universities to do better. I think, like many women, I am fed up with our silence around chronic abusers. It was right after Sunday’s debate that I chose to respond in that way. The connection was quite clear.”
Ashley, 35, public-relations professional
“In my high-school years I was a pretty active member of the local riot-grrrl scene, but as I got older I sort of fell out of touch with my own feminism until this election. It’s brought me closer to the women in my life — my mom, my sister, and my friends of all forms of feminism — people of color, LGBT women, and my concerns lie in how we keep this going past November 8. Just because misogyny right now has a face and a name in Donald Trump, doesn’t mean it is done.
One of the ways I’m thinking about extending this beyond November is by becoming more engaged in political issues impacting women on a local and state level, especially looking at things like equal pay, health care, and parental leave. I’m also taking a more active role in my profession to mentor and support younger women to develop more confidence in sharing ideas and owning their seat at the table. I think the biggest change in behavior is looking at women’s issues beyond those that directly impact me. Being less selfish with my feminism and thinking about how political policy impacts women of all ages around the world. I feel closer to the women around me as we’ve shared our experiences with misogyny and learned a lot from some of their particular experiences as women of color and LGBT women. My mom and I haven’t always seen eye-to-eye on who we vote for, but as a nurse she’s felt a lot of sexism in the workplace, and that’s drawn us closer together.”
Maybe that this entire, convulsive moment of horribleness is also an opportunity to talk about it, as painful as itis.
Sonia, 30, writer
“After the [Access Hollywood] video came out, what I saw happening on Twitter was the cycle of making jokes about this phrase. But I was like: I actually think that’s very much a real thing, and not everyone realized that. And women who had experienced that maybe felt like they were floundering, because it’s really confusing when something that has happened to you, that made you feel like a victim and was traumatizing, hits the news cycle, because then you are facing it regularly. And then, when it becomes something that is funny, it minimizes what it really is.
So I posted this thing on my Twitter that was like: I’m sure that a lot of women are remembering the time this happened to them, and if this has happened to you, share it. It seemed important to share what that story was. So I started doing that, and I was surprised at how many responses I got. It was pretty crazy how many women responded from all kinds of ages, like, I was walking on the street, or in a boardroom, or in a concert. It was really intense — responses kept coming in. So many women were saying: This is this thing that sounds like a joke, and this is the reality that we live in. And I wasn’t quite prepared for the reality that we live in, that so many women could say something that was so upsetting. It was both me trying to make a point and me realizing a point. It was pretty emotional hearing all of this. It sort of has felt like this is the only thing I can do.
What’s cool is I’ve seen women with much bigger follower counts do the same thing. It sort of seems like there’s this massive catharsis happening where a lot of women who wouldn’t have felt comfortable to speak up even a couple of years ago are realizing that they don’t have to be afraid of what will happen, and maybe that this entire convulsive moment of horribleness is also an opportunity to talk about it, as painful as it is.”
Jen*, 26, freelance producer
“I think even in my adulthood, even until very recently, and kind of even now, I have this weird thing in my head of, Oh, sex is a compromise. Which it can be. But I think I have never really stood firm in my ability to say no to things. We have this idea that women have the right to say no, but I’ve always thought of that as, ‘I have the right to say no to a stranger.’ I never really thought about that as, ‘Oh, I have the right to say no to someone I like and care about, because I still have autonomy.’ And I think my view is kind of shifting about what I’m willing to take or not take.
I had some very interesting conversations when the Donald Trump stuff came out, partially because I tweeted a story about experiencing a sexual assault. Guys started tweeting at me saying, Oh my god, this is so terrible, I can’t believe women go through this, what can we do to help? And then I thought through the guys in my life who generally think of themselves as respectful towards women, and who I generally think of as respectful towards women, but when I got into bed with them it was like: No, you pushed me way too far, over and over again. I think one of the things we can do is help the ‘good guys’ to see their blind spots. So, I called some of those guys who had made me uncomfortable and actually had some amazing conversations. Because there are things like that that I remember so unbelievably vividly, because I was so uncomfortable at the time, that they hardly remember at all.
There was one situation that made me immensely uncomfortable. So I wanted to talk to the guy about it. I tried to talk to him about it that morning, but he wouldn’t hear it, and then when I eventually did bring it up, he kept shutting me down. And that night rang in my head over and over because it was so uncomfortable for me. So we hadn’t talked in a while and I emailed him, and I was just like, Hey, it’s been a while, but do you think we could have a conversation? And I don’t know if it’s because time went by or what, but we talked, and we had the conversation, and I tried to tell him in very calm terms, like, I’m not here to attack you, I just need you to know this is how I felt, and I just want you to be aware of it for the future. And he was amazingly responsive. Of course, one conversation doesn’t solve anything, but I’m kind of happy that he kind of gets it.”
Emily, 28, journalist
“In general, I’ve noticed that I’ve really been relishing the moments when I’m surrounded exclusively by women. I’ve also realized how lucky I am to have those moments automatically as a part of my day since I work on an all-female team in the fashion industry. I feel like that’s a luxury and a built-in support group not many women get to experience in their lives.
This past Friday, I was egged by a man while having a conversation with friends in a courtyard about creating safe spaces for women … After our initial shock, the experience weirdly bonded us together and allowed us to have a deeper conversation and open up about previous experiences of violence or alienation we’ve had in our lives.”
Colleen, PhD student and researcher
“While a graduate student at Duke, I was sexually assaulted. Due to a combination of denial, exhaustion, and fear of professional judgment, I didn’t follow up on my police report. I later found out that this man had sexually assaulted other graduate students in the area and had a history of sexual solicitation and abuse of children. Knowing this, I decided I could no longer stay silent, and I agreed to provide testimony in child-custody and physical-assault charges against him at the time. He then threatened me and told me that his partner was a prominent staff member at Duke, and that they had accessed my records, that they knew things about me, and that they would make me be silent.
This election cycle has shown me that no matter how high-achieving, every woman is susceptible to sexual harassment and violence. This has inspired me to share my own stories of assault and harassment more broadly, because it is important that more women and men know that sexual assault doesn’t happen to just one type of woman and that victims shouldn’t be embarrassed because of what they have been through. [Becoming involved in grad-student unionization efforts on campus] is for me an effort to ensure that there are external bodies which monitor and prevent what happened to me from ever happening to another women or child, and in so doing, return the university to its place as a source of light, knowledge, and right in society.”
Ainsley, 28, software designer
“Watching the unbelievable double standards of this election, I’ve been motivated to redraw the division of domestic labor in my own relationship and talk my female friends through the same.
I feel like there has been a noticeable shift in the women that I talk to everyday in my life. What I noticed happening is, overall, there has been general lower tolerance for this kind of stuff, whether it’s situations in the workplace, or out in public on the street, or the sort of normalized things that play out in our hetero relationships. I was having these conversations with some of my women friends in a Slack group, sharing complaints, those of us who live with our boyfriends, about how much we do, and how it’s so difficult to get them to meet us halfway. I realized I had to lay out all the things that I did without asking or that were going unnoticed. There were so many things I took on by default.
Watching the election play out and seeing how much work women have to do to be considered the equal of men made me angry, and I started reading more about feminism and realizing that the progress that we’ve made hasn’t gotten us out of traditionally female responsibilities. So, like when women went back to work, it didn’t mean we weren’t still expected to keep our places looking clean. These dynamics are still playing out.”
Vinca, 26, grad student
“I’m planning to volunteer on Election Day. I have volunteered before, in 2008, working on the Obama campaign a little bit. I phone banked and handed out ballots. But Trump is so scary. And as a woman, I don’t know if I would feel safe in a country run by him, and I don’t know if my friends, who are other things that are not white men, would feel safe in a country run by him. I live in Toronto, and I’m only [back home in Chicago] for six days, and I was not planning on using one of them volunteering — but yeah. He’s just so scary.”
*Name has been changed.
Women finding misogyny continues to be an ugly truth in America.
Those of us of a certain age are familiar with what these women are describing. Misogyny has been just as real in American History as Slavery is. It is part of the reason I became a feminist. We need to be a country of equality: equality between races, religions, genders, and economic status. That is what the Founding Fathers were trying for in our beautiful and elegant Constitution. A real American should never think of another American as less than they are. We are all the same. We all require food, water, sleep. We all have feelings and need to be loved.
Man, woman; black, brown, white, yellow; Christian, Jew, Muslim, Sikh, Buddist, or Atheist; Democrat, Republican, Independent, Libertarian; we are all the same.
It’s about time we started treating each other that way.
Alice Dunbar-Nelson was born in New Orleans to a seamstress and a merchant marine. Though not a famous poetess, she was published and was an interesting woman. She used her life to help make the world a better place.
Alice was raised in creole culture and lived and worked in New York, Washington, DC and Wilmington, Delaware. She first became a teacher, and a journalist. She was also a political activist for African Americans’ and women’s causes. She also kept one of the surviving diaries of a 19th century black women.
I had not thought of violets late,
The wild, shy kind that spring beneath your feet
In wistful April days, when lovers mate
And wander through the fields in raptures sweet.
The thought of violets meant florists’ shops,
And cabarets and soaps, and deadening wines.
So far from sweet real things my thoughts had strayed,
I had forgot wide fields; and clear brown streams;
Normally I would never post this video but our society is condoning rape. I pulled this off of YouTube and it sickened me. As I have said so many times, rape has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with power and control. The young men in this video are the basest of human beings. This is important to me because it speaks to The War Against Women and it happened here in Ohio, the state where I now live.
The boys came from middle class families and had good prospects for their futures. Because of the choice they made, they aren’t even descent enough human beings to pick up garbage. This is not an isolated crime, it happens all the time in all countries around the world. A woman is not a piece of property to be used and discarded. It is clear in the video that no one taught this concept to these boys. Why? Perhaps the parents feel women are to be owned. Perhaps there is violence in their homes.
In this particular rape case are fragments of the thinking behind all of the rape cases here and around the world that it is just sex and not a crime. A woman isn’t raped because she is a whore. She is raped because, even in 2013, women are considered property. The fact that the town tried to protect the boys who committed this horrible crime is enough to make me throw up. There isn’t privilege for the high school jocks, or professional sports figures. They don’t get to rape a woman without paying a heavy price. If a guy rapes a woman, his future needs to be and will be gone.
Women who are raped don’t just get up and go on with life. They feel degraded and dirty. Some shower over and over because they no longer feel clean. This is something I can understand. Women who are raped are victims and don’t need to be revictimized by the media, friends, the judicial system, or their own families. They need support and counseling.
It is vital that their names are not put into the media. This case violated this concept that we worked on in the 70’s and 80’s. Previous sexual experience is also not allowed into court testimony. If a woman has had consensual sex and later is raped, the previous experience does not mean she can be raped without consequence. We keep going in circles about women’s issues. In 2013, we are once again in a war against women.
Now, The National Organization for Women. stopping abuse and rape.
There is only one reason for rape and it is a crime.
November 6, 2012 does decide who will be our President for the next four years.What won’t be decided is what will happen to women and our rights and issues.
In 2013, we face another important battle in Congress. We need to have passed the legislation to make women legally equal. Think it is not necessary? That is what they said about women voting. Essentially, they said we weren’t smart enough to vote. Not only are we smart enough but we are smarter than some men. Nothing personal.
Women are still going to require access to contraception. The whole “be fruitful and multiply” thing is well past the point of no return. We have seven billion plus human beings on this planet and I believe we have fulfilled the directive.
Children around the world are dying from hunger, lack of clean water, violent revolutions, greed, bigotry, racism and in some countries if a girl is born she will be left to die. Baby girls die alone, unwanted and unloved. Even if their mothers want them, the husband will throw both of them out, if necessary.
Here in America, the most prosperous country in the world, our children aren’t golden. They often lack proper education, health care, food, love, encouragement. Why you ask? Because they weren’t born into rich families, but into poor and disadvantaged families. Most of society turns away from the reality of what these children lack and what they suffer.
Domestic Violence is gaining victims. The laws we worked so hard to get on the books, are often not being enforced. Young girls are not being told no one has the right to pinch, punch, slap, rape, hit, demean, kick, or call them names. We must tell these girls there is help and they should not be forced to live in violence. There are help lines and shelters where then will be helped and legally protected in every state and in almost every town.
Human trafficking is where many boys and girls end up. Sold into sexual slavery and facing decades of being objectified and beaten by any man who has the money to pay for their services. These kids live in hell on earth. Their innocent souls corrupted and ravaged by men who only care about themselves and what their money can buy them.
All people have the right to live authentically. No one should have to pretend to fit in. Everyone needs to be accepted for who they are. Parents, society and governments need to make this possible…
I have barely scratched the surface, but I will continue to address these issues as time goes on.
It is now 2012 and for women there is much work to do. The plight of women and girls is still filled with issues that are harmful to women and girls in our society. Many men still feel that they own a woman and therefore can control her actions, her thoughts, her body, her money.
Women today do have more choices than we did in the seventies and much more than when the suffragettes were working to get us the vote. We can wear pants now, we can go outside the home to work now if we choose. But many women’s paychecks are not their own. They still must turn over their hard earned money to their husband. In many marriages, there is not a partnership but a situation where the man has the last say, instead of Making joint decisions. We can own property these days but divorce laws that were written to protect wives and children are often being ignored or put aside.
Domestic Violence is worsening. Partly because it is no longer the ” Silent Scream” and therefore it is reported more often, but also young women don’t understand that they have the right to live without violence and fear. Couples who are dating are often tied together by violence and pain, not love and mutual respect.
Despite all of the work in the seventies and President Obama signing into law the equal pay act, we still make $ .77 for every dollar a man makes. It is 2012 and in the seventies, we earned $ .64 to every dollar a man made. So while we do equal work we are not given equal wages. Men have more value in American society.
While more girls and young women are receiving higher education, the thought still prevails that women go to school so they can find a husband. Women who decide not to marry or not to have children continue to still face discrimination.
Government still feels it can legislate what we do with our bodies. If the government thinks it can control our bodies, no wonder the men in our lives feel the same. The argument could be made that the men feel that they can control our bodies and Congress is still made up mostly of white men.
Society wants to prevent teen pregnancy by “just saying no.” and without the education that they need to protect themselves from pregnancy and disease. I am not speaking about encouraging teens to begin to experiment with sex but since they are human teens and hormones rage, situations happen and the results can be totally devastating to the teens and the next generation.
One of the sexist things which is happening in our country and others in the world is polygamy. Here, it is found mostly in fundamental Mormon sects. Not all Mormons practice polygamy, but it is a very demeaning lifestyle for women and children.
There has recently been a television show on The Learning Channel called “Sister Wives”. I read the 19th Wife which is a memoir of Brigham Young and his “sister wives.” I just finished, Favorite Wife:/Escape from Polygamy.
What these stories do is to give us a glimpse into a lifestyle which is demeaning to women and their children. So I have decided to do more research on the subject and its beginnings and how it attempts to hide itself now.
I am shocked to find that even though polygamy is against federal law written in the late 1800’s, it exists and whole communities are filled with “sister-wives, celestial wives, or plural wives and they are not arrested. Warren Jeffries is the most recent controversial case but there are thousand of women and children living in these horrible situations.
Let me give an image to you to begin our conversation on the subject. The practice of Polygamy supposedly began in our country with visions or revelations which Joseph Smith had from God. Brigham Young had similar revelations later on confirming that this is God’s idea of what marriage should be.
The revelations showed that for a Mormon man to reach heaven he needed more than one wife as each one was a jewel in his crown. If his crown was full upon death, thanks to many sister-wives, he could attain godhood and the wives got into heaven on their husbands coat-tails. Little girls were taught that this was the only way for them to reach heaven. Boys are raised to go out and find a Gentile girl, marry her and bring her into the fold. These men hold total control over everyone of their wives and all of their children.
There are two colonies, Colinia LeBaron and Los Molinos which are active fundamental Mormon groups which practice polygamy today. There are hundreds of other sites around the country and in Mexico.
My heart is heavy as I heard of the passing of one of the great feminist leaders of our time. Adrienne Rich was a feminist and a poet. She authored the book ” Of Woman Born ” and many books of poetry.
Adrienne was born in 1929. In the 1960’s her poetry took a turn from the more traditional style to a radical feminist format. She wrote about how poetry can break isolation,she reminded us of creating beauty where there is no beauty and reminded us of our Sisterhood.
From a Survivor
The pact that we made was the ordinary pact
of men and women in those days
I don’t know who we thought we were
that our personalities
could resist the failures of the race
Lucky or unlucky, we didn’t know the race had failures of that order
and that we were going to share them
Like everybody else, we thought of ourselves as special
Your body is as vivid to me as it ever was;
even more since my feeling for it is clearer;
I know what it could do and could not do
it is no longer the body of a god or anything
with power over my life
Next year it would have been 20 years
and you are wastefully dead
who might have make the leap we talked,
too late, of making which I live now not as a leap
but a succession of brief, amazing
movements each one making possible the next.”
Adrienne Rich described her poetry as political and as personal. One of her poems, “Power ” speaks of how women find it very difficult to grab onto and to raise up their talents and successes and dreams. In “Power.” she speaks of Marie Curie, the scientist.
“She died a famous woman denying
her wounds came from the same source
as her power.”
This is from one of her books of poetry called, “The Dream of a Common Language; Poems 1974-1977.
So I say goodbye to a heroine and icon and I will end with this excerpt from her poem “Translations.”
You show me the poems of some woman
my age, or younger
translated from your language
Certain words occur; enemy, oven, sorrow
enough to let me know
she’s a woman of my time.”
Thank you for your contributions to the cause of women’s rights and RIP.
Blizzards of paper
in slow motion
sift through her
In nightmares she suddenly recalls
a class she signed up for
but forgot to attend.
Now it is to late.
Now it is time for finals:
losers will be shot.
Phrases of men who lectured her
drift and rustle in piles:
Why don’t you speak up?
Why are you shouting?
You have the wrong answer,
wrong line, wrong face.
They tell her she is womb-man,
babymachine, mirror image, toy,
earth mother and penis-poor,
a dish of synthetic strawberry ice cream
She grunts to a halt.
She must learn again to speak
starting with I
Starting with We
starting as the infant does
with her own true hunger
My choice of photo and poem might seem to be confusing. While we women here in America are struggling today to retain the rights we already have, many women around the world are trying to emerge from lives of servitude, illiteracy and fear. They are our sisters and we must recognize all of the strength and courage it takes to make baby steps to speak.
They face acid in their faces, beatings, children taken away, being isolated in their homes and being an object a man owns. We must recognize how difficult their attempts are for them to make. We must look at them, different, yet our sisters and applaud them for each step and gesture which enables them to begin speaking.
There are many women here in America who were taught not to speak. They didn’t know what they were taking about, they needed to shut up and take care of the children, they needed to “stifle” like Edith Bunker. Thanks to books such as the Feminine Mystic by Betty Friedan, Ms magazine and the work of Gloria Steinem, we can speak…we can speak out and up. What we have to say as women is as valuable as anything a man has to say.
Here is to total equality for all the people, male and female, all colors, and all religions and forms of spirituality.