Reebok is expanding its reach into fitness and running through a new partnership with Kathrine Switzer — who made history as the first woman to run and finish the Boston Marathon with a bib number in 1967, despite one race official’s effort to forcibly remove her from what was then a strictly men’s event.
The Canton-based athletic footwear and clothing brand is teaming up with 261 Fearless, the nonprofit founded by Switzer in 2015 to empower women through running clubs, events, training and an online community. The organization takes it name from Switzer’s race number in the 1967 marathon.
Reebok Running general manager Scott Daley hailed Switzer as a “true pioneer” in women’s running, who went on to win the New York City Marathon in 1974 and complete 39 marathons.
“At Reebok, we know how beneficial running can be on the human mind and body, and Kathrine shares our commitment to inspiring positive change through fitness and exercise,” Daley said. “We will be working very closely on exciting projects in 2016 that will empower women to achieve their fitness goals and life aspirations.”
Reebok will launch a 261 Fearless product line next spring and donate 5 percent of net sales to the nonprofit.
“Reebok truly understands the importance of fitness and how it transcends the physical benefits to bring strength and confidence to other aspects of life,” Switzer said.
Women were not allowed to officially enter the Boston Marathon until 1972. Switzer had registered for the 1967 race under the name of K.V. Switzer.
Now 69 years old, she no longer is a competitive racer, but has committed to running next year’s Boston Marathon to mark the 50th anniversary of her 1967 achievement.
Reebok’s announcement yesterday came just two days after the 120th running of the Boston Marathon, which marked another 50th anniversary — race grand marshal Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb’s 1966 milestone run as the first woman to finish the 26.2 miles as an unregistered participant.