Kathrine Switzer

Kathrine Switzer

Kathrine Switzer at the 2011 Berlin Marathon expo
Born (1947-01-05) 5 January 1947
Amberg, Germany
Education George C. Marshall High School
Alma mater Syracuse University
Occupation Runner and author
Website kathrineswitzer.com/

Kathrine Virginia "Kathy" Switzer (born January 5, 1947, in Amberg, Germany[1]) is an American author, television commentator and marathon runner,[2] best known for being the first woman to run the Boston Marathon as a numbered entry, in 1967.

Bobbi Gibb is recognized by the Boston Athletic Association as heralding the pre-sanctioned era as the women's winner in the previous year (1966). It was not until 1972 that women were welcome to run the Boston Marathon officially.[3]

Life and career

Switzer was born in Germany, the daughter of a major in the United States Army. Her family returned to the United States in 1949.[4] She graduated from George C. Marshall High School in Fairfax County, Virginia, then attended Syracuse University, where she studied journalism.[5] She earned a bachelor's degree there in 1968 and a master's degree in 1972. In 1979, the Supersisters trading card set was produced and distributed; one of the cards featured Switzer's name and picture.[6]

1967 Boston Marathon

After her coach insisted a marathon was too far to run for a "fragile woman",[7] Switzer trained for and completed the 1967 Boston Marathon under entry number 261 with the Syracuse Harriers athletic club.[5] It was another five years before women were officially allowed to compete . Her finishing time of approximately 4 hours and 20 minutes was nearly an hour behind the first female finisher, Bobbi Gibb (who ran unregistered).[8] She registered under the gender-neutral "K. V. Switzer", which she said was not done to mislead the officials. She claimed she had long used "K. V. Switzer" to sign the articles she wrote for her university paper.[9] Switzer was issued a number through an "oversight" in the entry screening process, and was treated as an interloper when the error was discovered.[10] Race official Jock Semple attempted to physically remove her from the race. Switzer claims he shouted, "Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers."[11] Switzer's boyfriend Tom Miller, who was running with her, shoved Semple aside and sent him flying, allowing her to proceed. Photographs taken of the incident made world headlines.[9][12]

Afterwards, Boston Athletic Association director Will Cloney was asked his opinion of Switzer competing in the race. Cloney said, "Women can't run in the Marathon because the rules forbid it. Unless we have rules, society will be in chaos. I don't make the rules, but I try to carry them out. We have no space in the Marathon for any unauthorized person, even a man. If that girl were my daughter, I would spank her."[5]

Because of her run, the AAU barred women from all competitions with male runners, with violators losing the right to compete in any races.[13] Switzer, with other women runners, tried to convince the Boston Athletic Association to allow women to participate in the marathon. Finally, in 1972, women were welcome to run the Boston Marathon officially for the first time ever.[3] Jock Semple, the man who had previously attempted to remove Switzer from the race, was instrumental in this formal admission of female runners.[14]

Later competition and work

Switzer was the women's winner of the 1974 New York City Marathon, with a time of 3:07:29 (59th overall).[15][16] Her personal best time for the marathon distance is 2:51:37, at Boston in 1975.[17]

Switzer was named Female Runner of the Decade (1967–77) by Runner’s World Magazine and received an Emmy for her work as a television commentator.[3] She wrote Running and Walking for Women over 40 in 1997. She released her memoir, Marathon Woman, in April 2007 on the 40th anniversary of her first running the Boston Marathon. In April 2008, Marathon Woman won the Billie Award for journalism for its inspiring portrayal of women in sports.[18] When visiting the Boston Marathon, Switzer is glad to see other female runners:

When I go to the Boston Marathon now, I have wet shoulders—women fall into my arms crying. They're weeping for joy because running has changed their lives. They feel they can do anything.[19]

She was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 2011 for creating a social revolution by empowering women around the world through running.[3] Since 1967, she has worked to improve running opportunities for women in different parts of the world.[20]

Personal life

In 1968, Switzer married Tom Miller, the man who had blocked officials for her while running the Boston Marathon in 1967. They divorced in 1973, and she then married and divorced public relations executive Philip Schaub and later married British-born runner and author Roger Robinson, in 1987.[21][22]


Year Competition Venue Position Notes
Representing the  United States
1974 New York City Marathon New York, United States 1st 3:07:29[15]
1975 Boston Marathon Boston, Massachusetts, United States 2nd 2:51:37[17]


  1. Milde, Horst (2 June 2010). "Kathrine Switzer and Roger Robinson visit the Berlin Sports Museum". German Road Races e.V. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  2. Butler, Sarah Lorge (12 April 2012). "How Kathrine Switzer paved the way". ESPN-W. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Lodge, Denise. "Kathrine Switzer: Empowerment through Running", Impowerage Magazine, 16 April 2012. Retrieved on 10 May, 2012
  4. Milde, Horst (5 January 2012). "Katherine Switzer 65 Jahre - GRATULATION der Laufpionierin!". German Road Races e.V. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  5. 1 2 3 "Lady With Desire to Run Crashed Marathon" (PDF). The New York Times. April 23, 1967. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  6. Wulf, Steve (2015-03-23). "Supersisters: Original Roster". Espn.go.com. Retrieved 2015-06-04.
  7. King, Jennifer (22 August 2015). "First women graduate from US Army Ranger School as gender barriers continue to fall". Australian Broadcasting Commission. Archived from the original on 22 August 2015.
  8. Boston Marathon results
  9. 1 2 The Real Story of Kathrine Switzer's 1967 Boston Marathon-Life is For Participating
  10. Semple, Jock; with John J. Kelley and Tom Murphy (1981). Just Call Me Jock: The Story of Jock Semple, Boston's Mr. Marathon, pages 7, 114–118, Waterford Publishing Co., ISBN 978-0942052015
  11. Concannon, Joe (April 5, 1987). 1967: Semple Meets Switzer. Versions vary but everyone remembers that infamous marathon. Boston Globe
  12. Kathrine Switzer interview (PBS documentary 'Makers', clip)
  13. Romanelli, Elaine (1979). "Women in Sports and Games". In O'Neill, Lois Decker. The Women's Book of World Records and Achievements. Anchor Press. p. 576. ISBN 0-385-12733-2.
  14. "Jock Semple, Marathon Official". The New York Times. Associated Press. 10 March 1988. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  15. 1 2 Switzer, Kathrine (2007). Marathon Woman. New York: Carroll & Graf. p. 270. ISBN 978-0-7867-1967-9.
  16. N.Y. Road Runners site (results archive accessed via "Runner Tools")
  17. 1 2 Switzer, Kathrine (2007). Marathon Woman. New York: Carroll & Graf. p. 290. ISBN 978-0-7867-1967-9.
  18. "Kathrine Switzer Website". Retrieved April 15, 2014.
  19. Zirin, Dave (15 April 2013). "The Boston Marathon: All My Tears, All My Love". The Nation.
  20. "Boston, 1967: When marathons were just for men". BBC news. April 16, 2012. Retrieved May 1, 2012.
  21. Switzer, Kathrine (2007). Marathon Woman. New York: Carroll & Graf. pp. 132–33, 203–04, 382–83. ISBN 978-0-7867-1967-9.
  22. Lynch, M.A.C. (September 30, 2014). "Legendary Runners Slow Down Long Enough To Marry". Retrieved 22 August 2015. [Registration required]

External links

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