Marathon pioneer runs Boston again

Kathrine Switzer going strong during the Boston Marathon on Monday, 50 years after she became the first woman to complete the race.
Kathrine Switzer going strong during the Boston Marathon on Monday, 50 years after she became the first woman to complete the race.PHOTO: TWITTER/LISAWBZ

BOSTON • Fifty years ago, a runner officially identified 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 then 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 off the course during the event.

"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."

  • +24min The 70-year-old K.V. Switzer's Boston Marathon 2017 finish of 4:44:31 is not much slower than the 4hr 20min she clocked in 1967 at the age of 20.

She recovered to finish in 4hr 20min. She completed this year's race a little slower, in 4:44:31.

She wore the familiar bib No. 261 on Monday, the same number she wore in 1967.

After she finished this year's race, the Boston Marathon organisers retired the number, guaranteeing Switzer would be the last runner to wear it.

Before her start, she was given the honour of firing the gun for the women's elite runners. Women were finally officially allowed to enter the Boston Marathon in 1972.

Women's marathons have come a long way, joining the Olympics in 1984 and gaining popularity through runners like Grete Waitz and Tegla Loroupe. More than half of United States marathon runners 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, she 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.

Switzer has said she hopes to run in New York this year as well.

Of her legacy as a pioneer, she wrote in The Times: "We learnt 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."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2017, with the headline 'Marathon pioneer runs Boston again'. Print Edition | Subscribe