50 years ago in April, Katherine V. Switzer ran the 1967 Boston Marathon as the first women with an official bib number (261).
A 19-year-old swim coach and future head of the American Swimming Coaches Association joined her four-person team that protected her from being barred from participating.
“Little did any of us know at the time, that this would be, overnight, the single event that led to the explosion of women running marathons in the USA and around the world,” recalled John Leonard, the current executive director of the American Swimming Coaches Association. “Katherine has become iconic in the women’s running movement around the world. At the time of course, we were just kids, but Katherine was very special and went on to a distinguished career as a representative of women’s running and empowerment around the world.”
50 years later, Switzer and Leonard are planning on running the Boston Marathon on April 17th. “When Katherine called [to participate], I said I would give it a try as one of her fund-raisers for her 261 Foundation, which works to empower women all over the world, through running. To donate, visit here.”
Back in 1967, Jock Semple was in charge of the Boston Marathon. He was determined to keep Switzer from finishing with her official race number on. Fortunately, he failed as Switzer was helped and protected by her boyfriend Tom Miller (since deceased), Arnie Briggs and John Leonard.
Long-gone are the days of women not being allowed or encouraged to participate in endurance sports. These days of old have given way to the contemporary era where women like International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame inductees Tamara Bruce, Dr. Jane Katz, Carol Sing and Sally Minty-Gravett, ice swimmer Kate Steels-Fryatt, 24-hour Club member Deirdre Ward, marathon swimmer Sakura Adams and many other women from all walks of life who serve as role models, mentors and inspirations throughout the open water swimming world.
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