When The Boston Marathon Was A Men’s Only Race


    Katherine Switzer was the first female runner and was not welcomed.

    It is Patriot’s Day in Massachusetts and Maine along with Connecticut, North Dakota and Wisconsin commemorating the battles of Lexington, Concord, and Menotomy, some of the first battles of the American Revolutionary War on April 19th, 1775. In the past, in the Boston-area, there were all sorts of activities that take place including a Boston Red Sox home game which starts at 11 in the morning and the Boston Marathon. The marathon is an event that excluded women until 1967 when Kathrine Switzer entered the race. She was not the first woman to run the marathon as Bobbi Gibb competed unofficially in 1966. Katherine Switzer became the first woman to run the 26.2-mile marathon but she had to enter the race underhandedly. She registered as K. V. Switzer, race officials assumed Switzer was a man and women were barred from competing in the event.

    Switzer had a hood on to cover her hair, had a number and was running which did not please Jock Semple who was the Boston Marathon’s organizer. Semple was in a press truck, spotted Switzer and tried to rip off her bib that made her an official competition. Switzer wrote in a book about the incident. “Instinctively I jerked my head around quickly and looked square into the most vicious face I’d ever seen. 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’s boyfriend Tom Miller was a Syracuse University football player and a nationally ranked track and field hammer thrower. He was in the race. He knocked Semple to the ground. Switzer finished the race in four hours and 20 minutes. In 1972, the Boston Marathon established an official women’s race.

    Kathrine Switzer

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