What does a small town runner do when she’s suddenly given the opportunity to interview two running legends?
First, she doesn’t believe it. Next, she has an internal fan-girl freak out–imagine jumping up and down, squealing, grinning… the whole nine yards. But all internal. (I swear.) Then, once she’s recovered, she dives into research so that she can sound at least half-intelligent and capable when interviewing not one, but two internationally acclaimed athletes.
The small town runner, of course, is me. Though I’ve run five marathons, I still consider myself a “baby runner” in the grand scheme of things. The legends: Kathrine Switzer and her husband, Roger Robinson, whose lifelong contributions to running go far beyond the sport itself and challenge everyone to reconsider what each of us is capable of in the endurance sport that is life.
The name “Kathrine Switzer” may not ring bells for the average reader, but in the running community, she is a hero. In 1967, Switzer was the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon–the legendary pinnacle of marathon running that was, at that time, considered to be a men’s race. This single act kicked off the acceptance of women into the sport of long-distance running, where now, women runners account for nearly 50% of participants.
It’s hard for women of my generation to imagine, but less than 50 years ago, the thought that a female was capable of running a marathon was completely preposterous. Myths around women athletes ranged from the usual “women aren’t strong enough to handle that kind of distance” to the outrageous “if a woman runs any significant distance, her uterus could fall out.” I wish I were joking, but it’s true. Yes, less than 50 years ago, women all over the country were told that if they participated in strenuous sports – and especially in distance running – their reproductive organs would simply spill onto the sidewalk.