Kathrine Switzer started running almost 60 years ago. In 1967, she became the first woman to enter and run the Boston Marathon when it was open only to men. This past April, 50 years after that historic race, Switzer returned to Boston and ran it again at age 70. In between those milestones, she’s run dozens of marathons, winning the New York City Marathon in 1974 and clocking a personal best of 2:51 at Boston in 1975.
I spoke to Switzer before Boston this year, and when I asked if she’d ever felt burnt out on running, she said no. I was skeptical and recently asked her again. Switzer replied, “I must have felt burnt out on running at some point—but only for a couple of days. Does that count?”
Given that, I asked Switzer what she’s learned from her lifelong relationship with her sport.
I’m always going to feel better for doing a run than for not doing one. Even if it’s only ten minutes, running is a contribution to myself. When people tell me they don’t have time to run, I say, “You have ten minutes.”
Running never fails to surprise you. My training for Boston this year was good—I had confidence in it, but there were many things that psychologically could have derailed me. When I got to the start line, my legs felt like cooked spaghetti. I was under such stress, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep—the media attention was piling, and the pressure was enormous. I was acutely aware of the fact that people would remember me more for not finishing than for finishing. I was extremely tired, but a miracle happened. As soon as I started running, my body unwound and relaxed. I started seeing things around me again, and the world got colorful. In the end, my time was only 24 minutes slower than when I was 20 years old.
Running has always been a gift to me; it always gives me more than I give it. In a funny way, it’s given me everything. I sometimes say that running has given me my religion, my job, my husband, my love, and my appreciation for nature. It’s given me the ability to connect with myself.
You’re never too old to improve.
No matter what, you’re always better when you come back from running than when you go out. If I’m really wondering whether or not to go run, I say, look for the “bonus”—something you see that will brighten your day.