because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Kathy Switzer

The first modern day marathon -- a footrace of just over 26 miles -- was held at the Summer Olympics in 1896. The following year, a marathon was run in Boston and it's been run on the third Monday of April ever since. The only problem is that, until 1972, women couldn't compete in it. Not even against each other. It was a boys' club, pure and simple. No girls allowed.

Then, in 1967, Kathy Switzer registered under the name "K.V. Switzer," ran in, and completed the race. She knew she could do it. She and her boyfriend were both marathon runners. And she was used to presenting herself as K.V. Switzer as a journalist for her college newspaper. But they certainly knew what they were doing when she registered for the race and received the numbered sign all official participants wear.

It's not that women didn't participate, you understand. In fact, Kathy Switzer finished nearly an hour behind Bobbi Gibb, who just ran without being registered. But Switzer registered (illegally) and completed the race (thanks to her boyfriend, who intervened when a race official yelled "Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers!" while trying to drag her off the course). The Amateur Athletic Union subsequently ruled that any woman who competed against men athletically would be barred from further competition in sanctioned athletic events. But five years later, women were -- finally -- allowed to register and run in the Boston Marathon.

For her single act of courage, Swtizer was subsequently inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame and named Female Runner of the Decade (1967-1977). Why did the in-your-face woman run down the road? Because it was there.

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