It was the opinion of men in 1967, or at least of the leaders of major sports tournaments, that women had no place in certain sports. They would be too sensitive for that.
For example, the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) racing rules stated that in races that followed the organization’s rules, women could not run a competitive race longer than 2.4 kilometers.
It may have been thought that they were overwhelmed by the pressure, but in the AAU rules there was no reason for this rule, as there had been considerable pressure for changes, and not just to the share of women.
First Bobbi tried
The previous year, a woman named Bobbi Gibb tried to enter the famous Boston Marathon but was rejected because the marathon followed the above rules. The decision sparked considerable anger, particularly among female athletes, apparently, but race director Will Cloney justified the ban by saying it was medically proven that it was out of the question for women to run a full marathon. .
He further added that if his daughter thought of such nonsense, he would spank her.
Bobbi Gibb always raced alongside registered competitors and finished the race in 3:21:40, which was in the top 30% that year.
If anyone can do it….
And a year later, in 1967, another runner, and her coach, had had enough and decided to ignore the rule.
Kathrine Switzer was then twenty years old and an excellent runner. Kathrine was a student at Syracuse University and was cleared to practice cross country with the school’s men’s team. However, she soon abandoned her male companions.
Team coach Arnie Briggs saw what a good runner Kathrine was and began coaching her personally. When Kathrine started telling Briggs that she wanted to run the Boston Marathon, Briggs said it over and over again. Such a thing would simply not be possible for women, but if anyone could do it, it would be Kathrine.
But when Briggs realized what was wrong with Kathrine, he changed his mind and agreed to train her for the Boston Marathon that same year. He himself also thought about running the marathon that year.
Kathrine wanted to race as a registered runner and not on the sidelines like Bobbi the year before. She sent an entry request under the name KV Switzer and asked her male partner to upload all the race data.
With the hat but the lipstick
Like Bobbi Gibb the year before, Kathrine attended the race in a hoodie with the hood over her head so no one could see she was female. She was accompanied by trainer Arnie Briggs and her boyfriend, Thomas Miller, both registered for the race.
Kathrine later revealed that although she had wanted to avoid addressing the issue of sex, as had happened to Bobbi the year before, she had applied her lipstick carefully before the race started.
Kathrine with her old number, 261,
She was going to present herself as a woman, and proud of it, instead of presenting herself as a woman disguised as a man.
At the start of the race, the lipstick didn’t get past the runners who stood beside her and gaped. But no one said or did anything to bring him up, and as soon as the shot was fired, Kathrine, Biggs, and Thomas fled.
But after a few miles of running, the chicken slipped from Kathrine’s head, and it was clear to anyone watching that it was a woman.
One of the race organizers, Jock Semple, thought this unsavory and rushed into the group of runners and tried to get Katherine’s number so she would be eliminated from the race.
Semple was well known to runners, had held an administrative position at the Boston Marathon for many years, and called himself Mr. Marathon, being known for his modesty.
In his excitement to get to Katherine, Semple Briggs ran when the coach tried to stop him. Semple tried to grab Katherine’s number, yelling at Katherine to “fuck her groove and get the fucking number”.
But Katherine’s boyfriend Thomas managed to knock Sempe to the ground and the trio continued their run.
There was no second attempt to stop Katherine who finished the race, the first recorded woman to complete a marathon.
Katherine Switzer finished the race in 4 hours and 20 minutes, despite delays caused by Semple.
Kathrine at the 2017 New York Marathon, 34 years after winning it, a first for women.
An unlikely friendship
When photos of Semple attacking Katherine appeared in the media the next day, the public was generally alarmed and Katherine Switzer was instrumental in changing the rules and in 1972 women were allowed to run marathons for the first time. and Katherine won the New York Women’s Marathon in the same way. year.
She later said she was grateful to Jock Semple who filled her with righteous anger and energy to finish the race despite being attacked.
Katherine Switzer is an award-winning runner, sports journalist and commentator who won an Emmy Award for her work in television. She has also written several books and is a much sought after speaker. She married Thomas Miller, who ran by her side, but they later divorced.
Then Jock Semple changed his mind and a decade later contacted Katherine and apologized. They then became close friends, until Semple’s death in 1988.
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