BOSTON – (April 17, 2017) – The elevator door swung open on the fifth floor of the Sheraton Boston hotel and Kathrine Switzer, age 70, strode down the hallway with a purpose. With an adidas rolling bag behind her, she walked quickly as there were people to see and interviews to do. Her schedule resembled that of the the busiest executive on State St. or maybe, even, a Head of State like the Queen of England. On this week, leading into the 121st running of the Boston Marathon, Switzer was celebrating and being celebrated for her historic efforts 50 years ago. For the past week, Kathrine Switzer was the popular Queen of Boston.
As it’s been chronicled so thoroughly this week, Switzer signed up for the 1967 Boston Marathon as K.V. Switzer at a time female participants were not welcome to run. When race director Jock Semple caught wind of the fact he’d overlooked the entry from the first woman to ever “successfully” register for the grueling road race. When old Jock saw the woman in full stride, he hopped off a press bus and accosted her, attempting to rip off her race bib No. 261. A few of the male runners alongside Switzer, including her big, burly then-boyfriend, former Syracuse All-American football and track man “Big Tom” Miller body-blocked the angry race official as he was shouting at Switzer.
The rest is history, as they say, but it’s a history that Switzer prefers to project to the present and the short and longterm future.
She settled into a conference room at the hotel and calmly opened her bag, itself a rolling office and work station, all week, for her 261 Fearless organization. She casually opened an old plastic shopping bag and out came original copies of the newspapers of Thursday, April 20th, 1967, the day after the race and carefully laid-out the Boston Globe and Record-American, among a few others, the edges frayed and yellowing. Dressed in her 261 Fearless running gear which was more Harvard Crimson than Syracuse Orange, she sat down with ARD-TV of Germany to begin a full day of interviews and appearances in Boston.
Only two weeks ago, Switzer was conducting interviews and conference calls from her New Zealand residence where she spends half the year before moving the operation to New Paltz, New York. Very capably and professionally, Switzer’s 261 Feaarless CEO, Edith Zuschmann, was orchestrating plans from Austria. Switzer’s small, buttoned-up organization, just recently launched, was prepping to hit a springboard at and around the events in Boston this month. It would vault her organization to truly global standing and stature, all in a purpose to create a different kind of not-for-profit in the running industry. The 261 Fearless mantra is all about encouragement and inclusion. It’s not about time and performance rates. Rather, Switzer is sending some mojo and a message to (mostly) women, but also to few good men to symbolize the assist Miller gave to her back in the spring of ’67, and the message is one of hope and determination, along with instructions to simply RUN.
She wants people to run for their lives. Not in a fight or fright kind of way, but rather in a mind-clearing, healthy, change your life for the better kind of way.