In 1967, Kathrine Switzer was the first woman to run the Boston marathon. After realizing that a woman was running, race organizer Jock Semple went after Switzer shouting, “Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers.” However, Switzer’s boyfriend and other male runners provided a protective shield during the entire marathon.The photographs taken of the incident made world headlines, and Kathrine later won the NYC marathon with a time of 3:07:29.
Who are you in this story? The harbinger of progress and equality? The rallying troops willing to stand up for what’s right? Or just another Bull Connor, aggressively fighting against integration and inclusion?
Since joining the marathon and ultra-marathon races, women have made greater progress in less time than men. Race over 30 miles, and now it’s coin toss which gender will win. Long distance running evens the playing field. So pull on your favorite kicks, and hit the road to celebrate what we have in common!
Update: In this 2007 interview with Kathrine Switzer, she discusses the event, its impact, and her friendship with Jock Semple. He was a product of his time and circumstances. And while that does not excuse his actions, his eventual 180 on the topic offers some reconciliation.
16 Apr 1973, Hopkinton, Massachusetts, USA — Original caption: Hopkinton, Mass.: Jock Semple (R) B.A.A., Boston Marathon official, who for years was against women running in the famous Boston Marathon, poses with pretty Katherine Switzer (L) a marathoner from the Central Park A.C., prior to start of the 77th annual race. The 26-mile 385-yd., event was won by Jon Anderson of the Oregon T.C. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS