Fifty years ago, a clever, determined woman named Kathrine Switzer crossed the finish line at the Boston Marathon — but not before an official tried to drag her from the course.
See, at the time, only men competed in the race. Switzer signed her registration as “K.V. Switzer,” was accepted and, despite efforts to remove her from the 26.2 mile competition, became the first woman to finish it as an official entrant. Her bib number, 261, remains famous.
On Monday, Switzer, 70, revisited that rebellious, trail-blazing moment by crossing the finish line again. This time she didn’t have to dodge an angry course director, but was instead accompanied by 261 supporters who ran alongside her.
Switzer’s run became one of the feel-good stories of the marathon, with celebrities like George Takei, Dan Rather and WWE wrestlers The Bella Twins praising her tenacity. More than a few Twitter commenters invoked the rallying cry, “Nevertheless, she persisted,” to honor the anniversary of Switzer’s milestone.
And persist, she did.
“I knew if I quit, nobody would ever believe that women had the capability to run 26-plus miles,” Switzer wrote in her memoir. “If I quit, everybody would say it was a publicity stunt. If I quit, it would set women’s sports back, way back, instead of forward. If I quit, I’d never run Boston. If I quit, [race manager] Jock Semple and all those like him would win. My fear and humiliation turned to anger.”
The Boston Marathon finally began admitting women in 1972, and Switzer’s run is widely credited with forcing the change. After Switzer finished on Monday with a time of 4:44:31, the Boston Marathon retired bib number 261.
In a Facebook post following the race on Monday, Switzer triumphantly wrote, “I finished, like I did 50 years ago. We are here to change the life of women. Just imagine what’s gonna happen in 50 years!”
So think of Switzer as the optimist we needed back in 1967 and still need in our lives today.