Kathrine Switzer: Feel Fearless and Free

Was there a moment in your career when you realized that you needed to reinvent yourself or alter the course of your career? How did you come to that decision?

There were several, as life always throws you curve balls and you need to shift and adapt. At the time, these moments are usually something negative, but by having to survive, you become creative and the end result is often amazing.

Here’s just one story in my life: All my life I wanted to be a sports journalist. When I graduated from university, I was 21 and offered a job on the sports page of the local newspaper! But I was also getting married and my husband had a year to go to finish his MBA. I wasn’t going to make enough money to support us both with the sportswriting job, so I had to turn it down and take a higher-paying job in public relations. I felt like I’d sold out, but figured it was only for a year.

When year three of our marriage rolled around and my husband was showing no indication of ever finishing his MBA or getting a job or getting out of bed before noon, I decided I’d have to get a master’s degree also, so that I could compete for bigger jobs to make enough money to support him forever. (I know what you are thinking!). So I went back to university at night, after a full day of working and marathon training at 5 every morning and again at 5 at night before class. It was extremely tough, but when I got my master’s I got recruited for a big job in New York City and realized, duh, I didn’t need to be married anymore.

What did you learn from that experience?

Two things: that sometimes what is perfectly obvious, even heartbreaking, has to be experienced first to be understood — and then the best thing in the world: to feel fearless and free.

Is there a particular book you are reading or have read that you’d like to recommend to others? Why is this book important to you?

Mostly, I like to read the classics – like Middlemarch – because they always give you insight into timeless issues of life. But right now I’m reading Hillary Rodham Clinton’s What Happened. Regardless of your political leanings, this book is very important because it reveals how very negatively women still are regarded by both men and women themselves. We’ve made great progress, but it’s not as great or as permanent as it should be.