In 1967, 20-year-old Kathrine Switzer wasn't welcome at the Boston Marathon, as the iconic photo of a marathon official attempting to push her out of the race attests. But she paid no heed and ran the marathon anyway, becoming the first woman to run the Boston race with an official bib or number.
Not only did Switzer make history then but she also made history by running the marathon again Monday, 50 years after she first ran. This was the 70-year-old's 40th marathon and her ninth time running the Boston race, CNN reported.
Women participating in professional or competitive sports was rare, and often challenged, in the 1960s. Switzer who trained with the men's cross-country team was told by her coach the distance was too long for "fragile women."
In Switzer's memoir, "Marathon Woman," she wrote that coach Arnie Briggs told her, "No dame ever ran the Boston Marathon!" But when Switzer completed the 26-mile trial, Briggs insisted that she sign up officially.
Switzer's memoir exposed the ugly nature of sexism in sports at the time. According to her the book and some press images, the race director, Jock Semple, told Switzer to "Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers!'" as he "grabbed my shoulder and flung me back, screaming."
Switzer used the traction after the photo to campaign for women to enter the Boston Marathon in 1972. Switzer told CNN after Monday's race, "What happened on the streets of Boston 50 years ago completely changed my life and changed other people's lives," she said. "The race today was a celebration of the past 50 years; the next 50 are going to be even better."
Switzer's first Boston race also launched her career in sports. She became an author and a TV commentator for the Olympics, World and National championships. Switzer also launched the Avon International Running Circuit of women-only races in 27 countries that paved the way for the first women's Olympic marathon in 1984. The number on Switzer's first marathon bib, 261, also became a rallying cry among women runners that led her to form 261 Fearless, a non-profit running club for women that has chapters all over the U.S.
Switzer made several pit stops while she ran the race Monday, walking through water stations, for pictures and interviews, still managing to finish under the qualifying time: 4:44:31 and an average mile of 10:51.