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Switzer puts a face on women’s athletes, by Charles Salzer, New Orleans Advocate

It was a moment that is credited with breaking the gender barrier for women in distance running. It was also a moment that changed Kathrine Switzer’s life.

At the 1967 Boston Marathon, the only thing a 20-year-old Switzer wanted was to prove to her coach she could finish the race. But, four miles in, race official Jock Semple tried to physically remove her from the course, and it set in motion a seminal event in women’s athletics.

Switzer’s boyfriend Tom Miller, a former all-American football player at Cornell, put a block on Semple that sent him flying to the side of the road while Switzer broke free. Pictures of the encounter made headlines around the world. Meanwhile, an emboldened Switzer went on to become the Boston Marathon’s first official female finisher.

Her courage in challenging the status quo of the race, and of distance running beliefs became a starting point for female athletes who had previously been told they were too fragile to run a marathon. Even now, 261, Switzer’s bib number from that day, has become a rallying point.

Switzer and her husband, Roger Robinson, an athlete, scholar and journalist, will be on hand for Saturday’s 21st annual Baton Rouge Beach Marathon. They will also be the guest speakers at the Beach Marathon Expo beginning at 5:15 Friday at the Marriott Hotel.

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