In 1967, Kathrine Switzer wasn’t allowed to run the Boston Marathon, but she did anyway. This year, she’s back.
Fifty years ago, a spry 20-year-old brunette stepped onto the Boston Marathon course for the first time, like “a pilgrim going to a shrine.” She had no grand plans that day, she just wanted to run the storied marathon.
This year, Kathrine Switzer, now 70, will line up again to run Boston, but the scene will be much different. She will be surrounded by some 14,000 sisters in the sport, making up nearly half the field, instead of having to sneak to the start line.
She’s entered under her full name, rather than using her initials “K.V.” as she did in 1967. And she can run with the confidence that no one will try to stop her in her tracks just because she is a female, as race director Jock Semple did half a century ago.
One thing, though, will remain the same. Her bib number—the very one Semple tried to rip off her chest as he attempted to eject her from the race—will be 261 again.
Back in that first Boston, Switzer had made it four miles before Semple tried to physically pull her off the course. “He claimed the race was ‘men’s only’ and that I was not allowed to run,” she said. “He was very angry that I had obtained a number and he lost his temper.”
Switzer’s coach, Arnie Briggs, and boyfriend at the time, Tom Miller, were running alongside her, and quickly ran interference. Switzer continued on and finished in 4:20, becoming the first woman to do so with a bib number.
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“For a while after Semple intervened I was worried and nervous and had lost a lot of energy,” she said. “But it slowly returned and by the end, I was feeling pretty good. I was determined to finish.”