Running Fearlessly

When you google “1967” and “important happenings”, the internet gives you many events: Nicole Kidman and Mark Ruffalo was born, Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix was recorded, Sweden introduced their first detections dogs and The Jungle Book had its world premiere on cinemas around the world. In other words, from a historical point of view Google didn’t find the year 1967 peculiarly important. However, I disagree.

The famous author Haruki Murakami once wrote ”Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live their life to the fullest.”. To live one’s life to the fullest is often seen as a difficult task. It is even harder, when you know what you want to do, but is forbidden to do it. A fearless woman overcame this obstacle when managing to do what at the time was thought impossible – she ran a marathon. The year was 1967.

50 years has passed since the day when Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to ever officially enter and run a marathon, despite a ban on female competitors who were barred from participating with male runners. To be able to get a racing bib number for the Boston Marathon she had registered herself as K.V. Switzer. Her first name was hid behind
her initials and her gender could not be discovered. Switzer had hoped that if she only got a bib number she could run the storied marathon. She would soon find out that this wasn’t the case. While running, Switzer was actually physically attacked by a race official, Jock Semple. He attempted, among others, to stop Switzer from running. Fortunately, they did not succeed. Switzer completed the race. Later on, she also won the New York City Marathon in 1974. What had begun as an attempt to participate in a run, was soon to become an important milestone for equality and female sports. Kathrine Switzer helped to pave the way for other female runners. “When I was first running marathon, we were sailing on a flat earth. We were afraid we’d get big legs, grow mustaches, not get boyfriends, not to be able to have babies. Women thought that something would happen to them, that they’d break down or turn into men, something shadowy, when they were only limited by their own society’s sense om limitations.”

This spring Switzer once again ran the Boston Marathon, but the scene looked much different. On this day, on the 50th anniversary of her first historical race, she ran along approximately 14.000 other women and she ran under her full name – Kathrine Virginia Switzer. The only thing that has remained the same is her bib number, 261.

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