All over Tik Tok and Instagram lately it feels like everyone is training for a half or full marathon, however, this would not be possible without the brave acts of Kathrine Switzer. In 1967, Switzer, at age 20, was the first ever woman to run an official marathon. Making history in Boston just 55 years ago, this sounds like a day people would come together to cheer on the icon, however, this is far from what occurred.
Switzer attented Syracuse University and at this point, there were no sports teams for women that she could get involved in so she began running with the men's cross country team. The university's mailman, Arnie, a 50 year old man who had been running the Boston marathon for years, trained with the team. He would run with Switzer every night and would always share stories from the magical race. One night Switzer exclaimed, ""Oh, let's quit talking about the Boston Marathon and run the damn thing!" Arnie responded, ""No woman can run the Boston Marathon." Switzer asked why not, as she was running 10 miles every night. Arnie shared that it was too long for women to run which only fueled Swizter. Arnie said the only way she could run in it was if she could show that she could run 26 miles beforehand. So, soon after, Arnie and Switzer set out to attempt at 26 miles and at the end, Swizter said that was way too easy and they ran 5 more. Arnie passed out after finishing and the next day was at her front door exclaiming that she must sign up now. She then paid her $3 race fee and was ready to go.
At the time, Boston was one of the only big marathons. The New York City, Chicaco, and other races that are famous today were not around quite yet. When it was finally race day, Swizter, Arnie, Switzer's boyfriend, and a member of the cross country team had road tripped to Boston the night before. As they gathered around the start, snow filled the air and the weather was nothing but ideal. Swizter had on makeup and golden earrings as she wanted to look nice and feminine (wish she could have worn SWAKE!) Many men caught a glance of Kathrine before the start and were excited to have a girl at the race, asking her if they could teach their wives how to run. As she was previously fearful she would not be accepted here, after these interactions, she shared that "more than ever before at a running event, I felt at home." Swizter had no idea she would be making history this day but was just excited to run.
The race finally began and she was off to a great start until around mile 5 when an angry man on the sidelines grabbed her arm and ripped her glove off. Thinking this was just an odd spectator, she kept running, yet the man persisted. He began reaching towards her bib in almost an attack screaming "get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers!" Arnie and Switzer's boyfriend held him back, yet as he continued to fight, Switzer's boyfriend tackled him. It turned out to be the manager of the race. They still had 20 miles left and Switzer had been attacked, her boyfriend was now angry at her for this situation and lashed out at her, she had blisters on her feet, and a freezing gloveless hand. Nothing was going right, yet she had never felt more motivated. If she stopped now, she thought, people would think this was all for publicity and no one would believe women could run 26.2 miles. She decided that no matter if she has to crawl on her hands and knees through the finish line, she would not stop for anything.
Against all odds, Kathrine Switzer finished the race, changing the world of running for females forever. At the age of 70, Switzer returned back to the Boston Marathon and ran the race again with her same bib number "261."
Today, the U.S. has the highest proportion of female marathon runners of 45% and across the world, around 35% of marathon runners are women. I have confidence that this number will only go up, and this year, 12,137 women ran the Boston Marathon thanks to Switzer. A fearless fighter, she did not walk so we could run, she ran so we could run.
So, when out conquering your everyday world, keep Switzer in the back of your mind and remember you can do anything you set your mind to. If your mind is set on a goal big or small, do not let anyone stop you.
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