Today, thousands of people are running in the Boston Marathon, arguably the most important marathon to take place in the United States. And social media is blowing up! Live Tweets are coming from the event, and several articles about the event have been posted on Facebook, specifically about Kathrine Switzer, one of the first women to run the Boston Marathon and celebrating her 50th anniversary of her illicit run in the race.
Switzer has become something of a feminist icon in running, as she was the first woman to register and run in the race 50 years ago, in 1967, when rules prevented women from running in marathons. Today, she runs in the race again alongside countless other women for whom she literally paved the way. She registered as K.V. Switzer and ran under the number 261. Throughout the entire race, people attempted to stop her from running, with one person literally grabbing at her number, screaming at her to surrender. A friend of hers pushed him out of the way so that she could keep running. She eventually finished the race at 4 hours and 20 minutes. Since the Boston Marathon, she has completed over 30 marathons, and started a women’s running club, 261 Fearless, an homage to her number in the 1967 marathon. The rule was eventually overturned in 1972. Today, Boston Marathon officials have retired the number 261 in honor of Switzer.
Countless news sites have posted on social media Switzer’s epic story and the path to allow women a seat at the table. The Boston Marathon Facebook page posted photos from a panel including Switzer and another runner, Bobbi Gibb, who ran in the 1966 race, but was not formally registered.
I am reminded of a certain quote which has been used all over social media recently to describe women breaking the glass ceiling, which was, ironically, said by Senator Mitch McConnell but reclaimed by feminists everywhere: “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”