Here at FITNESS, we couldn’t think of anyone more fitting to highlight on National Running Day 2012 than Kathrine Switzer. As one of the women highlighted in the PBS/AOL partnership MAKERS, Switzer is sharing more about what it was like to be the first female to officially enter—and complete—a marathon, despite nearly being pushed off the course by a race director.
She surely inspires us, but who inspires Switzer? “The people creating the MAKERS program are visionaries. They’re archiving an oral history of all of these amazing women so that others can use them as resources in the future,” she says.
Read on to learn about how Switzer got her running start, what she was thinking when a race official tried to knock her off of the course during that first race and her hopes for the future of women in sports.
How did you first get started with running? Why do you love it?
My dad motivated me when I was young. He told me that if I run just one mile a day, I’ll become an athlete. That changed my life because I felt empowered. Finishing a run was a sense of victory no one could take away. If I could run a mile, maybe I could write for the student newspaper or be on the prom committee. Later, when I was at Syracuse University, I met the coach for the men’s cross country team. He and his team welcomed me to train with them and were all wonderful.
What were you thinking when you were being pushed off the course as the first woman officially running a marathon at Boston in 1967?
It was a real surprise. The race director attacked me very suddenly and it scared the hell out of me! Other men on the course were saying, “Keep going!” My boyfriend threw a cross-body block to throw the race director off course. That was my defining moment—I knew I would finish then. I was not the clown the race director made me out to be.
Sometimes when bad things happen, they are the best things. Now, not a day goes by that I don’t thank that race director!
See a photo of Switzer’s “defining moment” and read more about her journey below.
Two important fitness landmarks are celebrated this month: National Running Day (tomorrow) and the 40th anniversary of the passing of the Title IX legislation (June 23)! In honor of these healthy holidays, here are a few fun facts about running and women from Running USA‘s State of the Run report.
- 7 million+: Women finished a road race in the U.S. during 2011, a record high
- 800 meters: The longest distance women were allowed to compete in during the 1960 Rome Olympics
- 1972: The 1,500 meter race, the new longest distance, is added to the women’s track lineup at the Munich Olympics (the marathon is added at the 1984 Los Angeles Games)
- Less than 20: Percentage of finishers during running events in the 1970s that were female
- More than 53: Percentage of finishers during running events in 2011 that were female
- 200+: Women-only running events in the U.S. last year (The top five in terms of participation: Nike Women’s Half, Disney Princess Half, St. Luke’s Women’s Fitness Celebration 5K, MORE/FITNESS Half, Tufts Health Plank 10K)
Check back tomorrow for our exclusive interview with Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon!