Photos of a race steward trying to stop her 1967 run are among the most iconic in athletics
On April 19th, 1967, Kathrine Switzer ran her way into history, becoming the first registered woman to ever complete the 26-mile course of the Boston Marathon. And now, half a century later, she’s just done it again.
In her original run, as part of the Syracuse Harriers athletics club, Switzer made international headlines after race official Jock Semple broke into the runners to rip the number off her sweatshirt.
Switzer, who had registered for the men-only competition with the initials of her first two names, had trained for the marathon after being told by a coach at her university that it was too far a course for a “fragile woman” to finish. On race day, Switzer was issued her ‘261’ chest-plate in an oversight, and started the race in the company of her boyfriend, Tom Miller.
A few miles into the race, Semple broke onto the course and tried to rip her number off, shouting: “Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers!” In the ensuing fracas, Miller, a 106kg former football player and hammer thrower, pushed the race official out of the way, sending him flying into the footpath.
Switzer went on to finish the race at a time of 4h20m, a full hour behind Bobbi Gibb, the female winner on the day, but who ran without registering.
Shortly after the marathon, Boston Athletic Association director Will Cloney was asked to offer his opinion on a female runner registering and completing the historically male race. “Women can’t run in the marathon because the rules forbid it,” he said.
“Unless we have rules, society will be in chaos. I don’t make the rules, but I try to carry them out. We have no space in the marathon for any unauthorised person, even a man. If that girl were my daughter, I would spank her.”
Yesterday morning, wearing the very same number which was almost ripped off her five decades earlier, the now 70-year-old Switzer completed the Boston Marathon for a ninth time. At the point on the historic course where Jock Semple grabbed a hold of her, she live streamed on Facebook, recalling that day:
Switzer was far from the only woman taking part in 2017, with more than 12,300 others having started. Included in those were members of the 261 Fearless Boston Marathon Team, an organisation Switzer founded after racing in 1967 to empower women in athletics.
Writing on Facebook after completing the 26-mile run, Switzer said: “I finished, like I did 50 years ago. We are here to change the life of women. Just imagine what’s gonna happen in 50 years!”