Kathrine Switzer

Katherine Switzer getting manhandled at the Boston Marathon 1978

When I was 5 years old, women were not invited to run the Boston Marathon (and probably for all I know any other marathon).  I was reminded of that from seeing Spirit of the Marathon which besides the human interest stories, did have a brief history of marathons.  There was some problem in a long distance women’s run at an Olympic event earlier in the century when a number of women collapsed  (I wonder if they all had food poisoning or something) and it hadn’t been attempted again.  Kathrine Switzer broke the gender barrier at the Boston Marathon in 1967.  She was grabbed around mile 3 or 4 by an official who yelled at her to get out of HIS marathon,  but her boyfriend decked him and Katherine and her man both just kept on running.  The two times I have heard her story (this time more dramatically) I am really awed that this happened when I was a child  Of course, this attitude about women and their physical capability has affected my thinking, and shaped my childhood. Although there were other girls that loved sports and hurled that softball hard in that crazy President’s Challenge or test (President Nixon, I presume) I was so rooted in my concept of femininity, I just gritted my teeth through it all.   I always hated sports, although I took ballet on an off from the age of 4  and was quite good until I gained too much weight in college and got discouraged and therefore disinterested.  I was the kind of kid that is picked last for teams at gym class.  I was interested in joining the fencing team in high school, but then I learned that they ran one mile during each practice, and that scared me half to death.  I had never run well or fast, so I figured I couldn’t do it.  Now when I run, I smile to myself often–did I ever think at age 15 that as a an ancient 48 year old I would be running 4 miles a day?  In between my recent running aspirations and my dismal school girl experience, I discovered that ballet had actually shaped me into a flexible, graceful person and I did have bouts of jogging and weight training and I did love the challenge of karate–I always loved movement, and felt exhilarated when moving.  Yoga and then yoga teacher training helped  me the most to get me in touch with my body and my mind, but it actually encouraged me away from hitting the gym and weight lifting because I was on such a quest for gentleness and peace.  Running is proving to be a more meditative practice than I ever thought, but encourages me in strengthening myself.  It feels very balanced right now, working all parts of me at once through running.  Katherine Switzer continues to fight for gender equity.  Her newest book is titled  Running and Walking for Women over 40…the Road to Sanity and Vanity (St. Martin’s Press).  It sounds like a must-read for me..the two reasons I started running…

Thank you, KV.

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