Last week, Kathrine Switzer, the first woman officially to complete the Boston Marathon, back in 1967, ran the race again. 50 years later.
Switzer, who was actually attacked by race official Jock Semple the first time she ran, wore the same bib number (261), lipstick (just as she had the first time) and completed the 26.2 miles in four hours, 44 minutes and 31 seconds.
Speaking to us before the race, she said she was “nervous” but also, “What the hell, it’s going to be a great day.”
Switzer started running when she was 12. She attended Syracuse University where she trained unofficially with the men’s track team because there was no women’s team. Her coach was the one who convinced her to sign up. “He said, ‘It’s not against the rules – there are no rules written about it.’” She laughs. “He said they don’t have anything about gender because no one assumes that a woman even wants to run! So I signed up.”
On the day, things went relatively smoothly until mile four, when race official (and ex-runner himself) Jock Semple attempted to tackle Kathrine. Switzer’s boyfriend at the time, Tom Miller, who was running with her and just so happened to be a 235-pound American football player, intercepted and tackled Semple to the ground.
The picture of the incident went as viral as a picture could go in 1967. It was on the front of newspapers everywhere and was eventually featured in Time Life’s book 100 Photographs That Changed The World.
“I think it was because we were on the eve of the women’s liberation movement,” Switzer says. “This race official thought I was trying to barge into his race and make a mockery of it.”
Switzer had entered the race using her initials rather than her first name (she says she wasn’t intentionally trying to hide her gender) and thinks Semple’s attack was more to do with the fact that he thought he was being taken for a fool. “He was angry I was a woman, absolutely,” Switzer says. “But he was angriest of all that I was wearing a bib number. He felt that he had been foiled. That I had done it [entered the race] by subterfuge.”
There were many weak reasons given by men at the time for keeping women out of running, including the ‘fact’ that the trauma of long-distance running could damage their reproductive organs. I laugh at the absurdity of this but Kathrine reminds me that in some parts of the world, this belief is still upheld. “They still believe this myth that women doing anything arduous will turn them into a ‘man’,” she says, adding that men believe women will “become masculine or their uterus will fall out and they won’t be able to have children and they’ll be totally ‘undesirable’.”
“The diabolical thing about it,” Kathrine continues, “is that women are ideally suited for any endurance activity – endurance and stamina are the things that women excel at, along with stability and balance.” For the longest time, she explains, sport has been about traditionally ‘male’ physical capabilities like speed, power and strength, but now, it’s edging towards being about endurance and flexibility. “So the proliferation of women’s sport is going to be increasing in the next 50 years especially.”
Source – Yahoo
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