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First Woman to Compete in Boston Marathon 50 Years Ago Runs Again

Katherine Switzer, the first woman to have officially joined and finished the Boston Marathon, is celebrating her triumph five decades ago by running again in the said event. At the age of 70, Switzer managed to run the race with a qualifying time of 4 hours, 44 minutes and 31 seconds.

Katherine Switzer

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Switzer went down in sports history by finishing the marathon in 1967 despite encountering attacks from the race director for the mere reason that she was a woman. With her persistence to complete the event, the athlete finished the race with the approval of everyone while paving the way for females to experience equality in running.

Switzer has not joined a marathon since 2011, although she has been showing her support for women’s participation in running. During the 121st Boston Marathon, the bib number 261 was retired by the race organizers as they acknowledged these digits worn by Switzer during the 1967 marathon. The only other retired number in the Boston Marathon is the number 61 for the 61 races started by athlete Johnny Kelly.

Katherine Switzer

Ruth Orkin

While she began running since the age of 12, Switzer decided to join the race at the age of 20 with her coach’s encouragement. Prior to registering to the event, the athlete needed to prove to the coach that she will be able to complete all of the 26 miles in the marathon.

“There were no real rules in 1967 stating that the Marathon was for men only,” Switzer said. “Nor was there anything indicating gender on the entry form. But almost all sports were for men. Women rarely participated. Most people assumed that women could not run the marathon distance and if they tried they would hurt themselves.”

Katherine Switzer


Merely two miles into the event, a race official began attacking Switzer. She described the man as having the “most vicious face” she had ever seen and was ready to pounce on her. According to Switzer’s account, the official grabbed her by shoulder and screamed at her, telling her to get off his race and give the bib number back.

Switzer’s boyfriend, who had run the race with her, was able to push the race official out of her way, allowing her to keep running.

“I knew if I dropped out no one would believe women could run distances and deserved to be in the Boston Marathon. They would just think that I was a clown, and that women were barging into events where they had no ability,” Switzer explained.

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