Kathrine Switzer made headlines in 1967 for being the first official woman to run the Boston Marathon and today, 50 years later, she’s heading to the starting line wearing the same number an official tried to rip off of her shirt in that milestone race.
Back then, Switzer was a 20-year-old Syracuse University journalism student; today, she’s an active 70-year-old with an impressive running career, having logged 39 marathons since 1967, even winning the New York Marathon in 1974 and hitting her personal best (2:51:33) while finishing second place in Boston in 1975.
Switzer had no intentions of dropping out of that fateful race, nor did she expect to be such a barrier-breaker (Roberta Bingay Gibb had actually completed the Boston Marathon the year before without an official bib). “I knew if I did that no one would believe women could run distances and deserved to be in the Boston Marathon; they would just think that I was a clown, and that women were barging into events where they had no ability,” she explained on her website. “I was serious about my running and I could not let fear stop me.”
Not surprisingly, the now iconic photo (above) brought women in sports, and the accompanying sexism, into the spotlight. “Everything changed," she told CNN affiliate WBZ-TV. "I said, 'This is going to change my life, maybe going to change women's sports and change the world.'"
Since 1967, Switzer’s become a champion for female runners, forming 261 Fearless, a nonprofit running club across the country.
Regardless of when Switzer crosses the finish line today, there’s no denying she’s already won in our eyes, a million times over.