In 1967, 20 year old university student K.V Switzer entered the Boston Marathon. The entry is significant, as it was later revealed that K.V was actually Kathrine Switzer, who thus became the first female to officially compete in the all-male event.
Up until that time, running, particularly in regards to marathons was considered to be a solely male pursuit. “The marathon was a man’s race in those days,” Switzer wrote in an essay for The New York Times. “Women were considered to be too fragile. But I had trained hard and was confident of my strength.”
Switzer’s participation received much notoriety, as officials tried to eject her from the race two miles in. Her boyfriend provided a “body block”, which knocked the official from the course and allowed Switzer to complete the race. “That event changed my life,” reflects Switzer, “and as a consequence, the lives of millions of women around the world.”
Women were finally officially allowed to enter the race in 1972. Since that time, women’s marathoning has also become an Olympic event in 1984, and now has become so commonplace that more than half of the marathon runners in the US are now women, according to The New York Times.
Switzer says that it would be hard to imagine the progress that would be made in this field back in 1967, but says that the gains have helped many women become more empowered. “It happened because on a basic level, running empowers women and raises their self-esteem, while promoting physical fitness easily and inexpensively.”
At last Monday’s race, Switzer competed again, 50 years after her historical first run. It was her 40th marathon and her ninth time running in the Boston race. She still wore the same bib number that officials tried to forcibly remove 50 years ago. “The race today was a celebration of the past 50 years,” Switzer said at the end of the race. “The next 50 years are going to be even better.”