Kathrine Switzer didn’t sign up for the Boston Marathon in 1967 to stir any trouble; she just wanted to run. But when the then 19-year-old defied race officials and tradition by becoming the first female to officially enter the race and created headlines in the news, she became a trailblazer for women in running and fitness. Switzer, along with other strong, empowering women will star in Makers: Women Who Make America, a PBS documentary airing February 26 about the social revolution for women’s political, economic and personal power. We chatted with Switzer–who is still running marathons, finishing the Berlin Marathon in 2011–about her history-making race, the future of women’s sports and how running and fitness can change your life.
FITNESS: Before 1967, no woman had ever officially entered the Boston Marathon. Did you have an idea that it would make such an impact in sports?
Kathrine Switzer: I didn’t want to run it to prove anything. I had heard that other women had run marathon distances and that one woman in 1966 ran the Boston Marathon but without a bib number, so I wasn’t trying to break any barriers. It wasn’t until a race official attacked me during the run because I had officially signed up and was wearing a number did I become determined to finish and speak out on behalf of all women.
But I also knew that if other women could feel the sense of empowerment that I’ve felt since I started running when I was 12, that it would create a tidal wave.
What have you learned from running throughout the years?
KS: It’s not about running; it’s about changing your life. It’s about power and self esteem. The motivation to get other women running has kept me running. It’s also about equality. Women have led the charge in women’s sport. More women are running in the US now, compared to men. I’ve also learned that consistency and tenaciousness is better than talent. The more you do the better you can do. One of the best ways to get older is to keep active. I’m proud of myself for what I’ve done. Every day that I get to run is a bonus at this point.
I’m grateful for the things I’ve done and things I have to do yet. The very simple act of putting one foot in front of the other has changed my life so greatly. Read more
Last month, you may have seen footage of some of the world’s greatest endurance athletes—long-distance bicyclers—huffing and puffing up hills and jostling for position while competing for the illusive yellow jersey. But what you might not have known is that a group of six women started one day before the official Tour de France field, covering the same terrain (2,162 miles) over the same three week time period. This is the first known time that a team of amateur female cyclists have tackled the entire tour course.
The first question that comes to mind: Why? “Completing tough journeys defines you as a person and just makes you a better human being. Plus, I have three boys and I’m trying to teach them to never quit,” says Maria del Pilar Vazquez, one of the cyclists on the Reve Tour 2012 team. Adds Kristen Peterson, another Reve member: “If someone asked you if you wanted to ride your bike around the French countryside for three weeks, would you say no?”
Besides raising awareness about the sport by “walking the walk” while pedaling away on Cannondale EVO bikes, as well as blogging along the way, the women also raised $60,000 for Bikes Belong, a non-profit that aims to get more people on bikes.
FITNESS caught up with the Reve riders before their amazing journey (to read about their feelings then, click here), and now, after, to find out what they learned while taking on a course that trips up even world-class riders.
- Train, train and train some more. “I trained every day for two consecutive months. Beyond time on the bike, my program included two days in the gym and three days of core work. Mental preparation involved a lot of visualization and saying to myself: ‘quitting is not an option’.” — Maria del Pilar Vazquez
- Count your blessings.“No matter how much pain I was in, I didn’t for a second take for granted that there are a lot of people out there that physically can’t have this opportunity. I am so lucky to have my health and physical ability to complete such an endeavor.” — Kym Fant
- Add incentives. “While it is probably every nutritionist’s nightmare, we toasted with a beer after every stage. It became something we’d look forward to going through those last few painful miles each day. Knowing a cold, frosty drink was waiting got me through more than one or two tough climbs!” — Kristen Peterson
- Focus on positives thoughts. “When things got tough, I thought of the people who bring joy into my life. When my legs were hurting, I would focus on these people, relax, breathe and spin. Up up!” — Jennifer Cree
Now tell us: What motivates you to push through challenging workouts?
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!
She’s the only woman to ever break 60 in a golf round (I’d be pumped if that was my score after nine holes—not 18!). She challenged fellow golf pro Fred Funk to a bet about hitting the longest drive—and won—forcing him to wear a skirt for a hole (“we still laugh about it today,” she says).
But what is making Annika Sorenstam most professionally proud today? The ANNIKA Foundation and The ANNIKA Academy, groups she founded to introduce young golfers to the game and pass along advice to current players. We spoke with Sorenstam last week to learn more about these programs and what she’s been up to since she officially retired from the sport in 2008.
How did you get your start with golf?
My parents introduced me and we lived five minutes away from a course. I played all kinds of sports as a kid, so golf wasn’t my sole passion at the time. My love for it grew from there, though.
When you first hit the pro circuit, you were a lot shier than you are today. How did you overcome this?
As an amateur, this affected my game [Editor's Note: Sorenstam has admitted that, as a junior, she delibertely placed second in some tournaments to avoid giving a victory speech.], but when I won the U.S. Open in 1995, I learned quickly. I knew I needed to communicate and interview better if I wanted to inspire others and be a leader. I do feel very comfortable with who I am and what I am trying to say now. I keep in mind that I’m talking passionately about things I know, and have the facts to back it up. It’s all about trusting your abilities.
Just 40 years ago, girls were often sitting on the sidelines while boys had fun on the athletic playing fields. Before the landmark Title IX legislation was passed in 1972, 30,000 women (or one in 27) participated in high school sports. Today, that number is more like 3,000,000 (or one in 2.5)! Another fun fact: The 2012 Olympic Games will be the first in which male and female events will be held in equal numbers.
So this summer, leading up to the official 40th anniversary of the law on June 23, here are three ways we’re celebrating the fittest females we know.
- Relive all of the greatest women’s sports moments and superstars with espnW‘s Power of IX. They are counting down the Top 40 Female Athletes of the Past 40 Years, revealing a new selection each weekday. Click on over to see a video and details about each winner as they are counted down.
- While you’re at espnW, add your photo to the mosaic of female athletes! You’ll join the ranks of pros from Billie Jean King to Serena Williams as well as “everyday” women who love to golf, play frisbee and swim. Simply upload your image and explain why “Title IX is mine.”
- To take the Title IX celebrations to the gym, we’re wearing adorable tops by the aptly named company Title Nine. Their Power of 9 line includes eight tees which will be rolled out throughout the summer. As an added bonus, nine percent of sales will benefit Starting Block, a non-profit that helps girls across the U.S. get involved with sports. Our favorite designs so far: Champion Girl (seen above) and Determination.
Now tell us: What does Title IX mean to you and how has the women’s sports landscape changed since you started playing?
We were super excited to get 18-year-old Roxy surfer girl, Kelia Moniz, in on our interview series. She’s fun-spirited, carefree and one of the most talented young surfer chicks out on the water. Of course, growing up in Hawaii could do that to you! Oh yeah, and did we mention how her love for fashion makes her that much cooler in our books?
Here’s what Kelia filled us in on:
What is one food that you absolutely can’t live without?
Sushi! I’m obsessed. [Editor's note: We agree Kelia!]
What food do you eat right before you surf that you feel gives you the most energy?
Something sweet and filling, like a smoothie or acai bowl!
Surfing requires a lot of strength, what is your go-to workout move to help keep you strong?
I just stick to the basics: running, push-ups, sit-ups and other core exercise. Surfing keeps you strong and in shape, so I just try to surf as often as I can because it’s the most fun way to exercise.
Most athletes have a mantra that pumps them up, what’s yours?
I don’t really have a mantra. I just try keep positive and not think too much when the pressure is on because that usually throws me off.
How would you describe your fashion sense out of the water?
I wouldn’t know how to describe my style, but If I were to pick a couple celebrities whose street style I like, it would be Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez.
What’s your favorite article of clothing in your closet?
Cut off jean shorts. [In true Roxy spirit!]
Since we are always so busy gathering up the latest active and fashion trends, we rarely get a chance to chat with our favorite athletes over here in fashion land. So when we were given the opportunity to talk with some ladies who we think rock, we jumped at the chance to ask them questions about food, fashion and being fit.
What is one food that you absolutely can’t live without?
I love eggs. Most of my breakfast contains some sort of eggs. They are a great source of protein!
What do you eat right before you hit the course that you feel gives you the most energy?
Before a round of golf, oatmeal with raisins and berries are my favorite.
Golf requires a lot of upper body strength, what is your go-to workout move to help keep you strong?
I like using my own body weight during workouts. To maintain good upper body strength—old fashioned push-ups, hang-ups and dips work well for me.
Most athletes have a mantra that pumps them up, what’s yours?
Don’t ever let your passion get in your own way! [Editor's note: So true, we love this Suzann!]
How would you describe your fashion sense on/off the golf course?
I love all my Nike apparel on and off the course. We are fortunate to have four seasons in a year, which means a big shipment every quarter. All the Dri-FIT stuff is great, it stretches, works great in hot weather and breathes! It is hard to pick one favorite as I dress more traditional on the course, than off the course.