Today, more than half of marathon runners in the United States are women, but it wasn't always this way. In the 1960s, women were considered “too fragile” to run 26.2 miles (42 km), and they weren’t allowed to compete in events such as the Boston Marathon. But Kathrine Switzer, a 20-year-old runner, disagreed. She registered for the 1967 Boston Marathon under the name K.V. Switzer, and lined up at the start with 740 men. However, a few miles into the race, officials figured it out. In a moment that was immortalized in a famous photograph, a very angry race official named Jock Semple tried to pull Switzer off the course and rip off the No. 261 bib that she was wearing. Switzer’s boyfriend, who was running alongside her, provided a timely body-block, and she finished the race in 4 hours and 20 minutes.
A long, hard route to equality:
- Bobbi Gibb was actually the first woman to run the entire Boston Marathon. She is recognized by the Boston Athletic Association as the women’s winner in 1966, 1967, and 1968, but she competed as an unofficial entrant.
- Women were officially allowed to run in the Boston Marathon in 1972, and cleared to compete in the Olympic marathon in 1984.
- Kathrine Switzer achieved her personal best at the Boston Marathon in 1975, with a time of 2:51:37. In 2017, at age 70, Switzer ran the race again, finishing with a time of 4:44:31. She called the race “one of the most gratifying emotional experiences I’ve ever had.”