Sunday, December 30, 2007

Marathon Woman

In 1967, Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to enter the Boston Marathon. Little did she know, women were not supposed to enter the Boston Marathon, a belief brought home to her when Jock Semple, the race's organizer tried to knock her over and take the number off of her, iconically captured in a series of AP photos.

Her book, Marathon Woman, is a study leading up to that day, and the revolution that followed. It is interesting to note, in this day and age of instant celebrity, that after "the incident" Kathrine Switzer managed to fade back into relative anonymity.

But we runners can rarely leave things alone, and Boston kept gnawing at her, as did the larger picture of women's running, and the grand picture of women's sports. Her book chronicles her journey through a period of time, not that distant, when women had few sporting opportunities and the prevailing belief was that long-distance running just might damage the baby-maker (my phrase, not hers). Switzer fought to develop women's only running events to empower women across the world, eventually leading to the first women's marathon in the 1984 games. Improbably, Switzer called the race as an analyst for ABC that day, as Joan Benoit ran into the history books.

Kathrine Switzer's story is amazing, her grit and resilience is admirable and the story she weaves, through the ins and outs of the women's liberation movement, the empowering of women through sport, and the revolution of which she was both participant and leader, is a riveting read.

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