In 1967, Kathrine Switzer took to Boston only to do what she loved, and something that was otherwise a relatively uncontroversial pastime for many: running. The difference on this day, however, was that Switzer would be participating in her first Boston Marathon, and as men viewed women far too “fragile” to complete the 26-mile race, that was a feat a woman had never accomplished before.
Undeterred by myth, Switzer’s ambitions were met with aggression early-on in the race. Manhandled by the race manager (seen above trying to pull off Switzer’s numbers), demonized by her then-boyfriend for ruining his sports career, and antagonized by the press with asinine questions like “What are you trying to prove?”, Switzer ran to cross more than a finish line that day; she ran to achieve equal rights for women in sports and to silence the squawks of those whose anachronistic views on a woman’s physical abilities had kept countless capable women out of athletics for centuries. Said Switzer to her running-mate and coach Arnie Briggs following the race manager debacle, “I have to finish this race. 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 it for the publicity or something.”
She did finish the race. And at this year’s marathon, nearly 70% of the 11,606 female runners followed in Switzer’s footsteps.