The Boston Marathon
The first Boston Marathon was held in 1897, and it is the oldest and most well-known marathon in the world. The very first marathon hosted 15 runners on the 26-mile race. Today, over 30,000 runners enter the marathon each year. Today, nearly half of the runners in the marathon are women; however, it hasn’t always been this way. There was a time where women were forbidden from running in the Boston Marathon.
Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb
Many women didn’t like the idea that they were being left out of the marathon. In 1966, a woman named Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb became the first woman ever to complete the marathon. Unfortunately, because she ran unregistered, the Boston Athletic Association refused to acknowledge her achievement, and it was if she never ran in the marathon at all. Even after Bobbi ran in the marathon, the BBA stood firm on its decision to keep women from running alongside men in the marathon.
Katherine Switzer was a runner from Syracuse University. In college, she spent years running alongside men in the men’s cross country team. She always dreamed of running in the Boston Marathon, but her coach told her that women were too fragile to run the race. His words just tempted her, even more, to run and complete the entire 26-miles.
Katherine didn’t want to make the same mistake as Bobbi, and she tried to register for the race in 1967. Thanks to a clerical error, she was registered for the race under her initials, K.V. Switzer. She was a registered racer and was given the number 261. Although she was officially registered, the race officials were not happy that she was there. They even tried to convince her not to run in the race. She didn’t care what they said, and she was determined to run anyway.
Katherine knew that there were people who were unhappy that she was in the race, but nobody was as unhappy as Jock Semple. While Katherine was running, Jock burst out from the crowd and tried to remove her from the race physically. When he grabbed her by the shoulders, he yelled, “Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers!” Fortunately, Katherine’s boyfriend, a 235-pound ex-All American, was running beside her, and he tossed Jock to the ground, allowing Katherine to continue with the race. After the incident, Katherine was a bit worried that something similar would happen. What happened next left her shocked.
After Jock tried to pull Katherine off the course, a group of male runners surrounded her. She was nervous for a second until she realized that they were creating a protective barrier around her. She ended up completing the race with a time of four hours and twenty minutes. She was the first woman to complete the Boston Marathon officially.
Refusing to Quit
Katherine says that she refused to quit for a few reasons. If she quit, people would think that people would say that it was a publicity stunt. If she quit, it would set women’s sports back rather than forward. Finally, is she quit, people like Jock Semple would win.
Unfortunately, her accomplishment wasn’t without controversy. Many officials believed that Katherine registered under her initials so the officials wouldn’t know that she was a woman. She denied this, saying that she often used her initials on her college essays.
Even though Katherine ran in the marathon and she completed it, the officials still refused to allow women to run in the marathon. As much as women pushed, the more they were denied. Finally, six years after Katherine first ran in the marathon, it was open up to women. While women were officially allowed to run in the Boston Marathon, there were still people who didn’t like the idea of women running in the race. This didn’t stop them that first year, and many women ran. Katherine was deemed a hero, and three years later, she was named Female Running Of the Decade by Runner’s World Magazine. In 1974, she ran in the New York City Marathon, and she won with a time of three hours and seven minutes.
National Women’s Hall Of Fame
Over 50 years after her historic run, Katherine still remains a prominent figure in the world of running and women’s rights. She is 72-years-old, and she still works tirelessly to inspire women runners around the globe. In 2011, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. The worst moment in sports history is still impacting the world today. Jock Semple tried to bring Katherine down all those years ago, and what he did was to empower women runners further. His little trick backfired, and Katherine managed to make huge strides for women in running.