Fifty years ago, a runner officially entered as K.V. Switzer participated in the Boston Marathon. On Monday, she did it again at age 70.
Kathrine Switzer’s marathon in 1967 became historic because she was the first woman to complete the all-male race as an official entrant — her registration as “K.V. Switzer” hid her gender. The race resonated far beyond a footnote in the record books when an official tried to force her from the course after a few miles.
“The marathon was a man’s race in those days; women were considered too fragile to run it,” she wrote in an essay for The New York Times 10 years ago. “But I had trained hard and was confident of my strength. Still, it took a body block from my boyfriend to knock the official off the course.” Switzer recovered to finish in 4 hours 20 minutes.
Switzer completed this year’s race only a little slower, in 4:44:31.
“In 1967, few would have believed that marathon running would someday attract millions of women, become a glamour event in the Olympics and on the streets of major cities, help transform views of women’s physical ability and help redefine their economic roles in traditional cultures,” Switzer wrote.
Over the years, Switzer has competed in more than 30 marathons, winning New York in 1974 in 3:07:29, and has worked as a television commentator. She is the founder of 261 Fearless, a running club for women. The name comes from the number she wore in 1967.
Switzer, who had not run Boston since 1976, started this year’s marathon on Monday morning wearing the same number. It was retired after the race — just the second number that the marathon has retired. Before her start, she was given the honor of firing the gun for the women’s elite runners.
She has said she hopes to run New York this year as well.
Of her legacy as a pioneer, she wrote in The Times: “We learned that women are not deficient in endurance and stamina, and that running requires no fancy facilities or equipment. Women’s marathoning has created a global legacy.”