When Kathrine Virginia Switzer was 12 years old, her father recommended she run a mile every day to help her make the field hockey team. She found that running gave her strength, stamina and empowerment, so she continued it through high school. Dr. Switzer upped it to three miles a day in college, and eventually, she and one of her field hockey teammates were noticed by the men’s track coach. He asked the pair to join the team, despite the fact that they were women, and this solidified her desire to run competitively.
Later on in Dr. Switzer’s collegiate running career, she met Arnie Briggs, a well-known New York marathoner with 15 Boston Marathons under his belt. He was retired at that point, but he mentored and trained her to compete in the 1967 Boston Marathon. He also helped her register for the race, which was an all-male event at the time. Famously, when the race’s co-director spotted her, he tried to rip off her numbers mid-race. Dr. Switzer’s boyfriend intervened, and she became the first woman ever to finish the Boston Marathon.
This event changed Dr. Switzer’s life and the lives of countless other female runners, who began to follow in her footsteps. They fought to be included as equals in the sport, and in 1972, women achieved a huge victory when they were made official competitors in the Boston Marathon. Dr. Switzer further became a part of running history when she won the 1974 New York City Marathon and ran a time of 2:51 in the 1975 Boston Marathon, which was then ranked 6th in the world. Additionally, she was a leader in getting the women’s marathon included in the Olympic Games in 1984, and in 2017, she became the first woman to run a marathon (the Boston Marathon) 50 years after she first did.
Today, Dr. Switzer continues her efforts as the founder of 261 Fearless, a social running network for women. She was motivated to create the group by her desire to inspire other women and create opportunities for them. Dr. Switzer hopes the organization continues on long after she’s gone. To further this goal, she authored two books on the subject, “Walking and Running for Women Over 40” and “Marathon Woman,” and co-authored “26.2 Marathon Stories” with Roger Robinson.
Outside of her running career, Dr. Switzer has garnered experience as an industrial editor at the Bristol-Myers Corporation (now the Bristol-Myers Squibb Company), the public relations coordinator for AMF Inc., and the director of media affairs and the sports program at Avon Products Inc. She has also served as a broadcaster for various sporting events across ABC TV, NBC, CBS and ESPN. Her professional designations include a Bachelor of Arts, a Master of Arts, and a PhD from Syracuse University.