Katherine Switzer was born in Amberg, Germany in 1947 to a major in the United States Army. She and her family moved back to the States in 1949 to settle down in Virginia. Switzer went on to attend Syracuse University where she would graduate with a bachelor’s degree (1968) and a master’s degree (1972).
Switzer made entering and finishing the Boston Marathon a goal. So in 1967 she, her boyfriend, and her trainer traveled to Boston to compete. Women were not at this time officially allowed to compete in the Boston marathon, so Switzer signed up to as the androgynous sounding “K. Switzer.” She began the race without incident, but slowly more and more runners and bystanders began to notice there was a woman running in their midst. Finally, a news van caught up to take photographs of the woman runner. In front of the news van, Jock Semple, the race official, raced after Switzer and attacked her. However, as he tried to drag Switzer out of the race, he was shoved off the road by Switzer’s boyfriend. Switzer went on to finish that race as the first woman to officially enter and run the Boston Marathon since the race’s creation 70 years before. 5 years later, women were finally allowed to officially compete in the Boston Marathon.
Since that historic run, Switzer has run 39 marathons, won the 1974 NYC Marathon, and has continued to run in international marathons for the past 50 plus years. In 2011, Katherine Switzer was inducted into the USA National Women’s Hall of Fame.
“Women everywhere understand what running does for them. It gives them a sense of empowerment, and self esteem, and freedom, and fearlessness.” – Katherine Switzer
Learn more about her story via WBUR Boston: