Girls can’t run marathons. Girls can’t do much of anything. They’re just…girls.
Young women today need to realize that women have not always been equals in the world, and in many ways, we still aren’t. We’ve only had the right to vote for the last 94 years. Think about that, ladies. Your great grandmother and perhaps your grandmother couldn’t vote for the next president, a privilege you take for granted. Up until fifty years ago, a woman couldn’t get a loan or open a bank account without her husband’s signature (and permission).
One woman who bravely and boldly paved the way for us is Katherine Switzer.
At the age of nineteen, Ms. Switzer decided she wanted to run the Boston Marathon. Guess what? Sorry, it’s a boy’s club. You can’t run.
She did it anyway. I don’t know how she got past the registration desk, but somehow, she got her number, pinned it on her sweatshirt, and started the race. She got many kind acknowledgements from the male runners, but at some point during the race, reporters got wind of a woman running and caught up with her, asking her stupid questions like, “Are you going to run the whole race?” and “What are you trying to prove?” Eventually, a man tried to grab her and throw her out of the race. He turned out to be the race manager. He is the guy pictured below in the dress shoes behind her. Fortunately, he was tossed to the side of the road by Ms. Switzer’s boyfriend.
At that point, Ms. Switzer realized she needed to finish the race – for all women. If she quit or allowed them to throw her out of the race, it would be a blow to all women who desired to compete, and she would become a joke, a tabloid headline. At the time, there were no intercollegiate sports for women, no scholarships, no prize money. Women competing physically was almost unheard of.
In the freezing rain and frigid temperatures on April 19, 1967, Katherine Switzer finished the Boston Marathon in four hours and twenty minutes, forever changing the face of sports opportunities for women.
If you’d like to read more about Ms. Switzer and the Boston Marathon event in her own words, you can find it on her webpage HERE.