Meeting Kathrine Switzer - The Runner, the Legend, the Renegade
May 03, 2012
When it comes to long distance running legends, there's a few that immediately come to mind. Ted Corbitt, Steve Prefontaine, Philippides, just to name a few. But when it comes to female running legends, there's one that I immediately think of.
I have to admit, I didn't learn of her until a few years ago after watchingSpirit of the Marathon (if you haven't seen it, it's a must see).
As the story goes, the year is 1967. Since it was thought that women's wombs (or uterus) would fall out from the constant jarring (sound familiar?), women were banned from running in marathons. Kathrine Switzer entered into the 1967 Boston Marathon under "K.V. Switzer" going undetected by officials, that is, until several miles in. That's when race official Jock Semple physically tried removing her from the course. The now famous photos show Kathrine's then boyfriend literally punching the race official in the face.
Now fast-forward to two weeks ago. We received a note from a producer at MSNBC requesting that we appear on the Melissa Harris Perry show along with, guess who, Kathrine Switzer. We were geeked! A little confused as to why anyone would put us in the same category as her, but honored and humbled, nonetheless.
I have to say meeting Kathrine is definitely a defining moment in my life. She was the most down to earth and humble person I've ever met. Her passion for the sport, women's rights and health and fitness was contagious. She had everyone in the studio ready to run a marathon.
One of the first things I asked was, "Did you really understand what you were doing that day?" Her response? "No." She said she was just a 20-something who wanted to run. But the day after she knew she had done something. And the rest is history. We ended up talking for an hour after the show and we probably could have stayed there chatting even longer.
For the rest of the day, I couldn't stop thinking about where I and Black Girls RUN! would be if Kathrine hadn't decided to enter the Boston Marathon that year. Better yet, what if the race official wasn't determined that she wouldn't run that day. What Kathrine did for women's long distance running was groundbreaking. In an era of civil rights and women's rights, her actions spoke to the nation loud and clear. Sometimes fighting for what you believe in is a marathon, not a sprint.
Also, check out her website.