By Scott Sandsberry, Yakima Herald-Republic
You could say Kathrine Switzer’s greatest claim to fame was the day she took one small step for woman, one giant leap for womankind. Except that it was more like, oh, 40,000 steps — roughly the number of strides required to cover the 26 miles and 385 yards of a marathon.
Oh, she’s done plenty since the April day in 1967 when she ran her first marathon. She’s written three books, become an Emmy award-winning commentator, been inducted into the USA National Women’s Hall of Fame and become a much-sought-after inspirational speaker.
But the act that paved the path to those other accomplishments — and to her appearance as co-featured speaker, along with her husband, elite masters runner Roger Robinson, at Friday night’s Yakima River Canyon Marathon race-eve dinner — was covering those 40,000 steps in a race for the first time.
Those steps came in the 1967 Boston Marathon, which until then had been a men-only event. Switzer became the first woman to enter, be issued an official bib number and then complete the race.
She finished the marathon despite the angrily aggressive attempts of the race director to remove her from the course and rip off her race number, resulting in photographs that made front pages across the nation and turned Switzer into an iconic figure: the woman whose act of defiance kick-started the wave of social change that would help lead to such things as the Olympic women’s marathon, the boom in women’s running, even Title IX.