Kathrine Switzer: Trailblazer for Women’s Running


I was lucky enough to meet Kathrine Switzer briefly in October 2011 at the Victoria Marathon race Expo in Canada.

She is probably most famous for becoming the first woman to run the then all-male Boston marathon as a numbered entry in 1967. Another female, Bobbi Gibb, also ran Boston that year, but Bobbi did so as an unregistered entrant (and had also done so in 1966). Kathrine obtained a numbered entry (#261) by registering as K.V. Switzer. 761 people had paid the $3 entry fee to enter the race that year. It was a massive field, and they did not have qualifying standards back then. During the race, when race officials discovered there was a woman running, they attempted to eject her. Photographs of race manager Jock Semple attempting to crash-tackle Switzer and rip her race number off were beamed around the world. Switzer alleges that she was told to “Get the hell out of my race” by Semple, but he was pushed aside by Switzer’s boyfriend, who was running with her at the time. She went on to finish the race in around 4 hours 20 minutes.

5 years later, in 1972, women were finally allowed to enter the Boston Marathon, if they met the men’s qualifying time of 3 hours 30 minutes. 8 women toed the line that year, including Switzer, who placed 3rd.

In 1974, Switzer won the New York marathon in a time of 3:07:29. The following year, she returned to Boston, and ran a PB of 2:51:37. She has run a total of 37 marathons

Switzer also did a lot of work behind the scenes, including launching the first women’s only road race (the Crazylegs mini marathon in 1972) and the Avon running circuit (launched in 1978). She was also instrumental in getting the women’s marathon added to the Olympic Games athletics program for the first time in Los Angeles in 1984. That race was won by American Joan Benoit in a time of 2:24:52. Switzer was working for ABC at the time, and covered the race.

In 2011, Switzer was inducted into the national women’s hall of fame. She has written several books, including 26.2 Marathon Stories, and Marathon Woman.

You can read an excerpt of Kathrine’s Memoir, Marathon Woman, here:


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