Fempower: Q&A with Kathrine Switzer and Melissa Seymour

Melissa Seymour: Hi Kathrine! Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.

Kathrine Switzer: While I was never a ‘professional’ athlete, it is running that shaped my life and is still a kind of hub of my life.  From that has come a profound determination and activism to empower women everywhere and help them achieve equal status in society. Running helps do that, or at least realize many inequities. I mostly earn my living as a speaker and also a TV commentator, but I am asked every day for my opinions; this questionnaire is another example. I am a journalist by training and by passion; next to running (and my husband!) I love to write and find that the most fulfilling thing for me. I have authored 4 books –‘Running and Walking for Women Over 40’ (2 editions, first in 1998; 2nd a re-vamped and updated E-book version launched last week), my memoir ‘Marathon Woman’ and co-authored with my husband Roger Robinson, ’26.2 Marathon Stories’.

MS: What was it like running the 1967 Boston Marathon?

KS: I discovered early that running always made me feel powerful, free and fearless. The longer I ran, the stronger I felt so the 26.2-mile distance intrigued me. The Boston Marathon, which was founded in 1897, was the most famous race in the world to me next to the Olympics. Yet unlike the Olympics, it was supposedly open to anyone who wanted to try to run. So, of course, it was a frightening experience when the race director attacked me in the race and tried to rip off my bib numbers.  He was furious that I was a woman who had entered what he claimed was a men’s only race. The above photos of him assaulting me are in Time-Life’s book, “100 Photos That Changed the World.”

MS: How did that moment change your life?

KS: In short, it changed my life completely—and it therefore changed millions of women’s lives around the world.  It gave me a sense of vision, even radicalized me, and gave me a life plan.  Running a marathon always changes your life, but this was a particularly massive change.

MS: What was it like being featured in the documentary The Makers?

KS: Overwhelming. First to be in such legendary company.  And also because I had no idea that they would use so much of my interview and that I would open the whole show.  But what happened to me in the Boston Marathon was a dramatic example of an ‘awakening’, and the first part of that Makers documentary was about how we see things often for the first time, when a moment of total clarity flashes on like a light.  Makers was important to me; it took my story to many thousands of people.

MS: What’s a motto you live by?

KS: Be Fearless. Be Free. Be grateful.

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