Up until about 50 years ago, women were excluded from marathons, and indeed the longest footrace in the Olympics open to women then was 800 meters -less than a half-mile. In the early ‘60s, a few women snuck into marathons without registering, but in April of 1967, Kathrine Switzer of Syracuse University registered for the marathon under the name "K.V. Switzer." She started undetected, surrounded by fellow Syracuse runners. But at about the two-mile mark, she was spotted by a bus of reporters and officials, which included John Duncan Semple.
On Patriots’ Day 1967, “Mr. Boston Marathon” was a very angry man. Runner No. 261 had violated the sacred code of the institution that was his baby. She deserved to be punished – and if Cloney couldn’t do the job, then Jock Semple would. “This wasn’t just about me being a girl,” Switzer said. “Jock probably would have left me alone if I was just running along like Bobbi. It was the number that got him. I had made him look like a fool.”
Semple evaded Briggs and lunged at Switzer, grabbing at the cardboard bib pinned to her sweatshirt. “He was pulling at me and screaming, ‘Get the hell out of my race and give me that number,’” Switzer recalled. “Arnie was screaming at Jock, and then Tom smashed Jock out of the way.”
News photographer Harry Trask caught the assault on film, which changed the way people viewed women in sports. The sequence overshadowed the winners of the race, and showed the public that not only can women run a marathon, but also refuse to be pushed away. Switzer finished the race in four hours and twenty minutes. Read the entire story at Deadspin.
Switzer was at the Boston Marathon yesterday, broadcasting the action as Caroline Rotich won the women’s division in 2:24:55.