By Lauren Linhard – firstname.lastname@example.org
50 years ago, the cameras captured Kathrine Switzer being harassed by Race Director Jock Semple while running the Boston Marathon: “Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers,” he yelled, echoing the common thought of the time that sports of such caliber were only meant for men.
Not only did she finish the Boston Marathon then, and 39 other marathons afterwards, but Switzer returned to complete the marathon on April 17 at age 70, running her fastest marathon in 46 years.
“My message to young girls is that you can do much more than you ever can imagine,” said Switzer, who wore the same bib number – 261- from her historic first marathon. “The only way you can imagine it is to do it. To take the first step. And if you take the first step, you can then take three steps. And then you can take 10.”
Switzer was greeted as an honored guest when she crossed the finish line earlier this week, her bib number becoming officially retired as a statement of her contribution to women’s sports.
“What happened on the streets of Boston 50 years ago completely changed my life and changed other people’s lives,” Switzer said. “The race today was a celebration of the past 50 years.”
After running her first Boston Marathon in 1967, Switzer quickly became the face of equality for female athletes – a role she took to heart, starting her own running club in Canada when she was expelled from the Athletic Federation.
Once she earned sponsorship, Switzer went on to create a global series of races in 27 countries, involving millions of women runners. She presented the results from these events to the International Olympic Committee, successfully obtaining the inclusion of a women’s marathon in the 1984 Olympic games.
Switzer also continued to push for women to be allowed in the Boston Marathon until the policy was finally changed in 1972. She finished first in the New York City Marathon in 1974 and second in the Boston Marathon in 1975.