Track & Field

Marathon Mondays: Katherine Switzer: The Rogue Marathoner who changed Women’s Running

With 11 full weeks to go until the SSE Dublin Marathon kicks off at 9:00am we have decided to try and help you on your way towards that looming goal.

This week we look at the second of our three marathoners that changed the world of the Marathon

13,751 women were entered in the 2015 Boston Marathon but only one was entered in 1967.

Katherine Switzer.

It’s not often that someone running four hours and twenty minutes can change the marathon and women’s sport. Katherine Switzer did however change it when she entered the Boston Marathon in 1967 under the name “K.V. Switzer,”.The 20 year old Syracuse University journalism student was welcomed by the other runners but would endure attacks from officials to open the door for other women and become a part of the history of the Boston marathon.

Katherine Switzer (252) being chased in the early stages of the Boston Marathon

Katherine Switzer (261) being chased in the early stages of the Boston Marathon

While Switzer was not the first one to complete the race, nor was she even the fastest female finisher on the day, her actual entry and the media coverage of the incident above opened the door for other women to run the Marathon which they were allowed to do 5 years later when eight women started and finished the race. Switzer would go on to win the New York City Marathon in 1974 and then place second in Boston in 1975 in a new personal best of 2 minutes and 51 seconds.

Excerpts from her book Marathon Woman which you can buy here

Her thoughts when challenged Mid-Race
The reason there are no intercollegiate sports for women at big universities, no scholarships, prize money, or any races longer than 800 meters is because women don’t have the opportunities to prove they want those things. If they could just take part, they’d feel the power and accomplishment and the situation would change.

Answering the Press immediately after the race
What made you do it?” (I like to run, the longer the better.) “Oh come on, why Boston, why wear numbers?” (Women deserve to run, too. Equal rights and all that, you know.) “Will you come back to run again?” (Yes.) “They will ban your club.” (Then we’ll change the name of our club.) “Are you a suffragette?” (Huh? I thought we got the right to vote in 1920!)

Switzer speaking to her Coach Arnie Briggs about knowing she had to finish to change Women’s Sport
“You know that guy Jock has gone up ahead and is probably arranging for one of those big Irish cops to arrest us when nobody is looking. If it happens, I am resisting arrest, okay? And something else.” I turned to Arnie and looked him in the eye. “Arnie, I’m not sure where you stand in this now. But no matter what, I have to finish this race. Even if you can’t, I have to–even on my hands and knees. If I don’t finish, people will say women can’t do it, and they will say I was just doing this for the publicity or something. So you need to do whatever you want to do, but I’m finishing.”

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Ronan Duggan

Ronan Duggan

Ronan Duggan is an athlete, coach, athletics fan and, most importantly, was once named Bandon AFC's under-12 Player of the Year. He was once a promising athlete but is now a promising coach, teacher and part-time athletics writer/broadcaster. While an 800m runner himself, Ronan has coached everything from pole vault to 10km with varying levels of bluffing. He has regularly been threatening to do something for years but is yet to deliver. He is regarded as our expert on the American running scene, though has yet, to prove his knowledge in this realm.

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