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Girls & Women

Kathrine Switzer, First Woman to Complete Boston Marathon, Finishes Race Again, 50 Years Later

In an era where a woman ran for president, garnering more than half of the nation’s votes, it’s hard to imagine that just 50 years ago, women weren’t allowed to run in marathons.

But, incredibly, this was the case. 

In 1967, Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to complete the Boston Marathon, despite being assaulted by a man only a mile into the race. The man, a race official, attempted to pull off her identification bib because he, among many men at the time, believed women were “too fragile” to run the 26-mile race. 

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“Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers!” the man had yelled at her, she wrote in her memoir, “Marathon Woman.” 

Of course, she finished the race (with a little bit of help from her boyfriend at the time, who body-checked the official off the course), and went down in history as the first woman to officially register for and complete the marathon. 

Now, in 2017, Switzer is back on the course. And at 70-years-old, she finished the race at a pace just 24 minutes slower than the one she set at age 20, the Boston Globe reports. She’s using her accomplishment as an opportunity to speak out for women’s rights and against sexism in sport and elsewhere. 

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Switzer has now run in 40 marathons, BBC reports, and started the Fearless Boston Marathon Team, a group of 125 runners who completed Monday’s race for charity. 

She also started a non-profit, 261 Fearless, that supports women’s rights around through world through non-competitive running. 261 Fearless, according to its site, “offers a safe and secure global running community for women – inclusive of ability, body-type, religion, ethnicity or socio-economic status through high quality meeting and communication platforms.” 

Despite the progress in women’s rights and women’s running (12,300 women ran in the 2017 Boston Marathon), Switzer believes there is still much work to be done to bring about true gender equality: “We have come a light year, really, but we have a long way to go,” she said

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In many competitive sports, such as soccer, women are compensated far less generously than men, despite their sterling track record of success on the field. Women are underrepresented in politics, scientific fields, and finance, relative to their share of the population. 

But in 2017, women are setting the pace in politics, showing their fearlessness on Wall Street, and breaking boundaries left and right. Switzer took one of the first strides in this movement, but as she showed on Monday, it most certainly will not be the last.