Marathon Woman

Kathrine Switzer: Changing the face of sports

Peter Hadzipetros, CBC News

April 19, 1967. The Toronto Maple Leafs were in the early stages of their march to their most recent Stanley Cup championship. Expo 67 was preparing to open its doors in Montreal to what would turn out to be 50 million visitors celebrating Canada’s centennial. And south of the border, a 20-year-old college student was lining up with the men, preparing to do the unheard of — to become the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon.

Katherine Switzer

They said it couldn’t be done, that women weren’t built to go the distance. The rules of the marathon didn’t expressly forbid women from entering — but there were no races longer than ½ miles (2.4 kilometres) that were open to women. A year earlier, Roberta Gibb hid in the bushes near the start line and ran the race as a bandit. But in 1967, K.V. Switzer trained hard and signed up for the Boston Marathon. Kathrine Switzer followed the rules and earned a bib number. …
What were some of the excuses they would make for not allowing women to take part?

If a woman ran more than a mile and a half, she’s going to get big hairy legs, her uterus is going to fall out, she’s going to grow a mustache and turn into a guy and never have children. Or we’re simply too fragile and something might happen to us — in the long term. That really was a bad one. It was inappropriate to run with men — that’s so stupid. People had bought into the three thousand years of myth about women’s passivity and weakness. I thought that was a whole lot of garbage because I came from pioneering stock, you know. My family came to the U.S. in 1737, so we were real tough stuff. The women in our family, certainly they were feminine and they were womanly, but they were no chickens.

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