In Sight

Running for Empowerment

Kathrine Switzer runs the Boston Marathon 50 years after she did it for the first time.

Photo: Hagen Hopkins 2017.

Kathrine Switzer was a few miles into her history-making run at the Boston Marathon on April 19, 1967, when the co-director of the famous 26-mile race suddenly appeared behind her and tried to shove her out of the competition.

Photo: Boston Herald.

Switzer’s boyfriend, Thomas Miller, blocked him, allowing the 20-year-old to finish the race in 4:20:02 at a time when women were thought to be too fragile for long-distance running. She was later disqualified for, among other things, running with men.

“What happened to me was a radicalizing experience. And it was one that made me bound and determined to change things for women,” she told the Boston Globe. “Running had given me everything, and I wanted other women to feel that as well.”

Switzer, who won the 1974 New York City Marathon, successfully campaigned for the women’s marathon to become an Olympic sport in 1984. In 2015, she started a nonprofit, 261 Fearless, that uses running to empower women around the world.

On April 17, 2017, Switzer, now 70, ran the Boston Marathon again. And this time, she was greeted with acclaim. Her story continues to inspire women 50 years later. Her bib number from the 1967 Boston Marathon—261—is sometimes worn by women on their arms when they race. Others have had it tattooed on them.

“It obviously meant so much to them to have this sense of fearlessness,” Switzer said of what her bib number represents. “They’ve really inspired me that way.”

—The Washington Post