On April 19, 1967, Kathrine Switzer made history by becoming the first woman to ‘officially’ run in the Boston Marathon although, strictly speaking, at that time female athletes were not allowed to compete beyond 1,500 metres. Switzer wanted to run in a marathon and chose Boston because, in the days before the New York, Chicago and London Marathons, it was a special event and because her coach, Archie Briggs, had run in the race numerous times.
In any event, have completed her application form, which made no mention of gender, as ‘K.V. Switzer’, the 20-year-old duly lined up alongside male competitors at noon on what was Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts. According to her memoir, ‘Marathon Woman’, the first few miles of the race passed uneventfully enough but, after four miles or so, Switzer was confronted by race official John ‘Jock’ Semple. Identifiable by his blue-and-gold Boston Athletic Association (BAA) ribbon, Semple apparently shouted, ‘ Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers!’ before attempting to rip the bib numbers from the front and back of her sweathshirt. Semple also assaulted Briggs when he attempted to intervene.
Although shaken by the experience, Switzer continued, eventually finishing in a time of 4 hours and 20 minutes. The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) reacted by banning female athletes from competing against their male counterparts, upon pain of losing their right to compete altogether. Nevertheless, Switzer went on to compete in many more marathons, notably winning the New York City Marathon in 1974, and was named ‘Female Runner of the Decade’ by ‘Runner’s World’.