In 1967, Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon. Entering the men’s race using just her initials, and so disguising her gender, she received worldwide recognition when an official tried to grab her bib, before being blocked by her boyfriend, Thomas Miller.
Switzer finished the marathon in four hours and twenty minutes, proving she could complete the same 26.2 miles as her male counterparts. Despite Switzer’s achievements, as well as unregistered women’s runners such as Bobbi Gibb, who finished an hour before Switzer in 1967, it would be still be another five years before women were officially allowed to run the Boston Marathon.
Switzer went on to become the women’s winner of the 1974 New York City Marathon with a time of 03.07.29, and run her personal best at the Boston Marathon in 1975, with a time of 02.51.37.
Now 71, Switzer will run in the London Marathon this April for the first time, wearing her iconic bib number 261 – the same number she wore in Boston in 1967. In a year that sees the UK celebrate 100 years since the women’s suffrage movement, which helped women secure the right to vote, Switzer said: “The streets of London have been an important part of women’s running history as well as women’s rights.”
The streets of London have been an important part of women’s running history & women’s rights. In 1980, a year before the 1st @LondonMarathon, we staged the Avon International Women’s Marathon there! I’ve wanted to run it. #261Fearless #pressforprogress#internationalwomensday https://t.co/JTayh3OVYW— Kathrine Switzer (@KVSwitzer) March 8, 2018
Switzer was involved in staging the Avon International Women’s Marathon in London in 1980 and said: “Ever since then I’ve wanted to run [the London Marathon] also, but have been too busy. Now is the time and I am so honoured and excited to be out there.”
Switzer has been an advocate for women’s sports participation, setting up ‘261 fearless’ – a global movement that empowers women through running. She will run in the London Marathon on Sunday 22nd April.