50 Years After Hiding Her Gender To Become The First Woman To Run The Boston Marathon, Kathrine Switzer Is Still Going Strong

by Leah Thomas

In 1967, Kathrine Switzer made history by becoming the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon. Today, 50 years later, she will compete in the race again while wearing the same iconic number: 261.

Switzer obtained a bib by signing up for the marathon with her initials, K.V. Switzer. Although there were no official rules against women running, it was essentially unheard of. When she expressed training interest to her running coach at Syracuse, he claimed that the long distance of the race would be too much to endure for “fragile women.” He agreed to help her train only after she completed a trial run.

During the race, Switzer was attacked by the race director, Jock Semple, who attempted to steal the 261 off of her clothes.

Switzer describes the attack in her memoir, stating, “A big man, a huge man, with bared teeth was set to pounce, and before I could react he grabbed my shoulder and flung me back, screaming, ‘Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers!'”

Switzer then finished the race in an impressive four hours and twenty minutes but was eventually disqualified. She used her story to become an advocate for women in sports, creating 261 Fearless, a nonprofit club for female runners across the country.

The number 261 has become an iconic symbol of inspiration for women everywhere. The Boston Marathon will be retiring the number in Switzer’s honor after her reappearance in the race today.

Top photo: KathrineSwitzer.com

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