When Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to enter the Boston Marathon with a number, in 1967, she knew she’d be chasing history. She didn’t expect to be chased off the course.
At the time, women weren’t officially allowed to enter the race. To be accepted, Switzer signed up with her initials as “K. V. Switzer.” On race day, though, she flaunted her femininity proudly. In lipstick and earrings, she took her place at the starting line.
Switzer was at mile two when race manager John “Jock” Semple, infuriated by a woman infiltrating the male-only marathon, ran up and tried to shove her off the course, yelling, “Get the hell out of my race!” But with her boyfriend knocking Semple back, she fended off the official and finished in four hours and twenty minutes.
To mark the 50th anniversary of her barrierbreaking run, Switzer, now 70, plans to repeat the 26.2-mile journey this month.
— Lisa Hughes (@LisaWBZ) April 17, 2017
In the race, Switzer will wear the number 261, the same one the official tried ripping off in her 50 years ago. In her honor, the Boston Marathon will leave the number out in future races.
Switzer has 39 marathons under her belt, including coming in first in New York in 1974 and running in the Olympics in 1984. The last time she finished one in Boston was in 1976, two years after successfully campaigning to let women officially enter it.
Her bib number might not show up in the Boston Marathon again, but Switzer’s movement goes beyond letting women enter that race. Founding a nonprofit international women’s running club, Switzer chose the name 261 Fearless.
“My goal is to reach women in places right now where they’re not allowed to leave the house alone, drive a car or get an education,” Switzer told CBS Boston. “If running can give them a sense of strength, where they are no longer victims and vulnerable, that’s what I hope it can do.”