August 2017 Run For Rights
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Kathrine Switzer became a hero of the women’s rights movement in 1967 after she officially completed the then all-male Boston Marathon. Having registered under the name KV Switzer, her gender went unnoticed by officials at the start line, but a few miles in she was attacked by an angry official who tried to pull her off the course – creating an enduring image of women’s rights history. With the help of a bodyblock from her boyfriend, Switzer evaded the official and finished the race in four hours 20 minutes.
On 17th April, aged 70, she ran it again, finishing just under 25 minutes slower in 4:44:31. She wore her original number – 261 – which was retired by race organisers after she crossed the finish line as a mark of honour. In her memoir, Marathon Woman, Switzer recalled the moment she was attacked. “A big man, a huge man, with bared teeth was set to pounce, and before I could react he grabbed my shoulder and flung me back, screaming: ‘Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers!’ I knew if I dropped out no one would believe women could run distances and deserved to be in the Boston Marathon.” Women were officially allowed to enter the Boston Marathon five years later in 1972, and to compete in the Olympics at the distance in 1984. Now 58% of marathon runners in the US are women.