Friday, March 09, 2007

Happy Weekend!

It's going to be a lovely one, too. Since I need a little inspiration lately, I'd like to toast Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon, back in 1967.

Switzer, then 20, wasn't the first woman to run the male-only marathon, but she was the only one to take the brazen step of actually entering the race. Well, the application didn't ask for her gender, did it?

Isn't this a lovely photo? It shows Boston Athletic Association Jock Semple, after he angrily jumped off the press truck to run after Switzer. He's trying to tear the number off her sweatshirt, while a couple of her male competitors try to reason with old man.

``Get the hell out of my race and give me that number!'' shouted Semple, one of the race's top competitors during the 1930s.

This incident happened just four miles into the 26.2 mile marathon. Switzer ran the rest of the race startled and nervous that she'd be pulled off at any time, and no one is sure what her time was at the end. Meanwhile, Bobbie Gibbs, a woman who ran the marathon without number or entry, finished about an hour before her. It was Kathrine Switzer who got all the press.

``The embarrassing thing for me now is that I sold women so short at the time,'' said Switzer,``I thought other women weren't interested in sports and I thought they didn't get it. It wasn't until after Jock tried to tackle me that I realized the reason other women weren't there is that they hadn't had the same opportunities that I'd had or the encouragement from their family, dad or coach.''

Eventually, the BAA and Semple allowed women to officially enter the race in 1972. From 1970 to 1976, Switzer competed at Boston six times, finishing second in 1975 in 2:51:37. She won the 1974 New York City Marathon.

In the 1970s, Switzer began to organize women's long distance races and received the support of Avon Products, Inc. As the program director of the Avon Running Global Women's Circuit, she campaigned for women's running worldwide and was instrumental with Avon in having the women's marathon added to the Olympic games at the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles.

Running and Walking for Women Over 40 : The Road to Sanity and Vanity by Kathrine Switzer


OldHorsetailSnake said...

Wow! I never knew that. She's gotta be right up there with Eleanor Roosevelt and Mammy Yokum. (I mean this.)

Doug said...

I know that's a serious story, but it struck me kind of funny. I know I don't have a 1967 perspective (well, I was there for a month and half) but it just seems so preposterous to be that horrified.

actonbell said...

I agree, Doug--it seems hilarious, now, but at the time, Semple thought this was SUBTERFUGE!!! Switzer had tricked him, and he was very angry.

He changed his tune, of course, and somewhere there's a press photo of Switzer kissing the top of his bald head. *snicker*

Balou said...

We've come a long way baby! ;)

Logophile said...

So many shocking little moments that served to recreate the world into the one we take for granted now.
Cheers to Switzer, she may not have set a speed record but she was breaking ground.

Joel said...

Had no idea! Great history lesson Actonbell...shocking to realize we're not that far removed from our "caveman" roots.

AP3 said...

Very interesting. It is wild that people got so upset, and not that long ago. And Switzer sells herself short.. I think she was a kind of hero.

All you marathoners are heroes to me. I don't know how humans can do that.

G said...

I loved what Logo said, "she may not have set a speed record but she was breaking ground". In many ways, we've come a long way but there are many still trying to "swipe the numbers" off women's shirts in a less visible way in today's society.

G said...

By the way, Actonbell, I appreciate your history lessons in your posts along the way - so nicely done.

Minka said...

Today we got perspective, I have doubts that back then I owuld have had the courage to fight for that perspective I take for granted today!

Doug said...

Oh, mercy. Not subterfuge!

Heavens to Betsy!