After I dressed for Sunday’s New York City Marathon, made sure I’d pinned my bib on straight, and put Clif Shot Bloks, ChapStick, and a $20 bill in my pocket, I took a Sharpie out of my backpack and wrote the number 261 on my right wrist.
“What’s that?” my mother asked.
“I’ll tell you later.”
261 is the bib number Kathrine Switzer wore when she became the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon in 1967. Then, women were prohibited from participating – at least on paper, so Switzer registered as “KV Switzer.” During the marathon, the race manager tried to tackle her and rip off her bib number, but she finished. She became a driving force in promoting women’s distance running in the U.S. and international circuits, and for getting a women’s marathon into the Olympics for the first time in 1984.
I interviewed Switzer last month for a story I wrote for Runner’s World. She told me about 261, which is now the name of a women’s marathon she helps put on in Spain, and that she has met people who either write the number on themselves during races or have it tattooed on their bodies.