Kathrine Switzer: She’s Fearlessly Running for Equality

June 1 - On The Dot
FIRST THOUGHT: Women on the Run

I often notice unrealistic depictions of women on TV and the big screen. Sex in the City’s Carrie Bradshaw ran many a mile in pumps—Ouch!—and more recently, Claire Dearing bolted from speedy dinosaurs while donning some spiky stilettos in Jurassic World. In my lifetime, I’ve seen dozens more women leaving parties and weddings barefoot, high heels in hand, than I’ve seen women gleefully running in stilettos. The reality is that from Pilates to kickboxing to marathon racing, women have the drive to deftly move our bodies to attain a physical goal—and thankfully, we have the smarts to forgo the Manolos while we’re doing it!


When it comes to women on the run, more women are lacing up, slapping a number on their stomachs and racing across the finish line. In fact, 11,973 women runners completed the 2017 Boston Marathon. That’s nearly 97 percent of the women who started the race. That’s pretty darn impressive, especially considering it was only about 45 years ago that the Amateur Athletic Union finally allowed women to participate in marathons, with the stipulation that they start 10 minutes earlier than the men. But at the 1972 New York City Marathon, women racers weren’t having any of that and instead, sat down for 10 minutes at the starting line until the men’s race began.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Kathrine Switzer, President of Marathon Woman and Founder of 261 Fearless Inc.

Today’s incomparable and awe-inspiring Woman to Watch, Kathrine Switzer, single-handedly broke all the rules and daringly challenged the all-male tradition of one of the country’s most acclaimed marathons. In 1967, Kathrine became the first female to officially enter, run and complete the Boston Marathon, paving the way for millions of female athletes.

While this remarkable feat is nothing less than transformative, it didn’t come without hostility and controversy. To start, Kathrine couldn’t even register under her own name, opting to use her initials and register as K. V. Switzer. But the real drama ensued when, after Kathrine began to race, a top event official literally tried to drag her from the race. But Kathrine completed the Boston Marathon in four hours and 20 minutes, and a photo of her confrontation with the race director went global, landing on Time Life’s list of 100 Photos That Changed the World.

Since then, Kathrine has become a force for change and a feminist icon known for breaking down barriers. Now in her 70s, she has run 39 marathons and won the 1974 New York City Marathon. And in 2017, 50 years after her groundbreaking first race, Kathrine completed the Boston Marathon in four hours and 44 minutes, amazingly, taking only 24 minutes longer than the race she finished while in her 20s!

Kathrine’s career spans the world of sports and business, and has included work in marketing, broadcasting and social advocacy. More than 30 years ago, Kathrine partnered with Avon Products to create the Avon International Running Circuit, a series of race events for women that reached more than a million ladies in 27 countries.

Through her nonprofit, 261 Fearless—an ode to her original Boston Marathon bib number—Kathrine encourages women throughout the world to walk, jog or run, acts that are still forbidden in many places. The group has become a global community of women who have found strength, power and fearlessness by putting one foot in front of the other.

Given her many amazing accomplishments, it comes as no surprise Kathrine was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, and recently saw her bib number retired from the Boston Marathon in honor of her historic first race.

We’re so in awe of Kathrine for taking that first step in 1967, and grateful that she continues to run for gender equality.


Today’s quote from Olympic running champion Wilma Rudolph epitomizes Kathrine Switzer’s harrowing yet important experience, and is an inspiration to any woman boldly standing her ground. She said:

Believe me, the reward is not so great without the struggle.”

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

To learn more about our conversation, check us out at OnTheDotWoman.com and talk to us @OnTheDotWoman on Twitter and Instagram. We’d love to hear your voice.

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