YANKEES MAGAZINE: What did you enjoy about running when you were a teenager?
KATHRINE SWITZER: My dad encouraged me to run a mile a day because he felt it would give me the conditioning I needed to make the field hockey team. I wound up
getting really empowered by running because it made me feel significant. I always said it was sort of like having a victory under my belt every day that no one could take away from me. It really set me up for my whole life.
YM: When did you first run competitively?
KS: When I was 18. I was at Lynchburg College in Virginia for my first two years of college, and I got recruited on the men’s track team. After that, I transferred to Syracuse University to study journalism. They didn’t have a women’s track or cross-country team, so I went into the cross-country coach’s office and asked if I could run on the men’s team. He told me that I couldn’t run officially because it was against NCAA rules in that conference, but he let me work out with the team.
YM: Arnie Briggs certainly had a big impact on you life story. How would you describe him?
KS: He was a volunteer coach. He was a mailman in Syracuse, New York, schlepping through the snow every morning. Then, in the afternoons, he would train with the men’s cross-country team. When I met him, he was about 50 years old, and he thought his running days were over. He loved the fact that a girl showed up. I would get lost on the cross-country course, so he started jogging with me. He had run 15 Boston Marathons, and he would fill the time by telling me about those experiences.
YM: What resonates from the conversation you had with Arnie in December of ’66 about the possibility of you running the Boston Marathon?
KS: I was tired, and we were running in the middle of a blizzard. When Arnie got into another Boston Marathon story, I said something like, “Let’s quit talking about the Marathon and just run it.” Then, he said, “Well, a woman can’t.” And I said, “What do you mean a woman can’t?” He responded, “Physiologically, a woman can’t do it. They’re too weak and fragile.” That made me really angry. We argued back and forth, and finally he said, “Prove it to me. If you show me that you can run that distance in practice, I’ll be the first person to take you to Boston.”
YM: As you got closer to the day of the marathon, how did the thought of taking part in such a historic race make you feel?
KS: The Boston Marathon always appealed to me because it was the last great open amateur competition in the world. I loved the idea that you could be in that race if you were reasonably capable of finishing 26 miles and willing to pay a $2 entry fee. The idea of running the Boston Marathon in the trailing molecules of the greatest runners in history was astonishing.
YM: What was it like to complete that first 26-mile run with Arnie?
KS: When we ran the 26, I felt great and I asked Arnie to run another five miles