In 1967 KV Switzer entered the Boston Marathon race as an official entrant. At the time this was unheard of because KV Switzer was a woman, Kathrine. Many people, healthcare providers and other “officials” back then felt that women did not have the physical capabilities, stamina, or endurance to run long periods of time. Short races were OK, but longer races were off limits. In fact, there was a belief that our delicate female lady-bits could not withstand the rigors of the longer race.
KV was assigned the number 261 for her first Boston Marathon run. Needless to say when Kathrine showed up and race officials caught on to the fact that a woman was running about 2 miles into her race, they tried to stop her. Click here to see the iconic photo of one of the race officials trying to grab/push her off the course, her running mates from Syracuse University protecting her. I get emotionally overwhelmed every time I look at that photo.
Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb was actually the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, unofficially. Bobbi had seen the marathon as a spectator with her dad as a child and fell in love with the race and running. Below is her response from a Women’s Running interview (link to article under resources) to receiving a notification from race officials denying her entry in the 1966 race.
“I didn’t know that my running was going to be a social statement until February of 1966. I wrote for my application [to the Boston Marathon] and they wrote back saying, “Women are not physiologically able to run a marathon, and we can’t take the liability.” [At the time, races longer than 1.5 miles were not sanctioned by the Amateur Athletic Union.]”
I can just hear her saying, “Well I will show you” after receiving that letter. This sheroe hid near the start of the race and then jumped in, finishing with an unofficial time of 3:21:25. Not too shabby.
The Boston Marathon is a premier race; traditionally only the fastest get entry and race spots are coveted by runners throughout the world. Yesterday, Kathrine ran this race again, 50 years after her historic run in 1967. Her race bib number 261 was retired after the run (see link below for information about Kathrine’s running group 261 Fearless). For many, myself included, her run was symbolic, especially in today’s political climate.
She Was Warned.
She was Given an Explanation.
Nevertheless, She Persisted.
I admire Kathrine and Bobbi. I know when I finished my first marathon (not nearly as quickly as they did), I felt like I could do anything. We are strong, we are capable and we deserve equality.
First Woman to Enter Boston Marathon Runs It Again, 50 Years Later, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/17/sports/boston-marathon-kathrine-switzer.html?smid=fb-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=0
50 Years Ago Bobbi Gibb Became The First Female Boston Finisher, http://womensrunning.competitor.com/2016/04/inspiration/bobbi-gibb-first-female-boston-finisher_57599#IM23bQAxYKQuCOMv.97
Pronounced TWO-SIX-ONE Fearless, we are a global supportive community which empowers women to connect and take control of their lives through the freedom gained by running. Through a series of non-competitive running clubs and private communication channels, we provide networking, healthy running support and education, and a sisterhood to women all over the world.
It is the mission of 261 Fearless to bring active women together through a global supportive social running community – allowing fearless women to pass strength gained from running onto women who are facing challenges and hence sparking a revolution of empowerment. 261 is the symbol that unites us as empowered runners.