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Anniversary: Boston Marathon 2013

By: Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon

Kathrine Switzer
There is an expression in marathon running that you go through a lifetime of experience every time you run one. It's absolutely true, because the marathon is not just something you can go out and do; you need to train for it. It takes a long time to be able to run for 26 miles, 385 yards, and that means discipline and sacrifice. Then, when you run it, it puts you face to face with yourself, your capability, your belief, your self-doubt and your fears; it takes everything you have.

But when you've finished it, you know you can do anything. You're powerful. You're fearless. You're older and a lot wiser. Especially when things happen in the race that are unpredictable-bad weather, a sore knee, an upset stomach. You cope; you forge on, because the whole purpose is to finish.

In 1967, the race director of the Boston Marathon tried to rip off my bib numbers and throw me out of the race because I was a woman in what was then a men's only race. My boyfriend knocked the official away from me, and I made the tough decision to finish the race no matter what. In the course of the race, I slowly grew up, realized the official was just a man of his time, and that it was my responsibility not only to finish to show the world women could run, should be allowed to, but also to create opportunities for them. That run changed my life as well as history, as creating those opportunities to run has empowered millions of women's lives in every respect. They know they can do anything and they deserve the opportunity to try.

Mine is just one of many stories about the Boston Marathon. Over the next 46 years that I have been at the race-- eight times as a finisher and the rest as a TV commentator at the finish line--I have witnessed the most astonishing feats of human capability, endurance and emotion. Each year I go through another lifetime, just as each participant in the drama does. What began as a small geeky activity all those years ago has become a mainstream fitness revolution that has changed the face of our major cities, as all our lives, women's especially (there are now more women runners in the USA than men --56%!)-Because it's not really just about running, it's about empowerment, freedom and fearlessness. That's for all of us, men and women, and it's a force wholly for good.

One year ago today, I was at the finish line again of the Boston Marathon doing my 36th consecutive television broadcast for WBZ-TV Boston. After wrapping a five-hour broadcast, I left the area 20 minute before the deadly bombings. Suddenly the sport I grew up with, the force wholly for good, had also become big enough to be a terrorist's dream photo op.

I was shocked, of course, but not surprised. I was at the Munich Olympics in 1972, and nothing after that will surprise me again. But I was saddened and very, very angry. There is never an excuse for taking an innocent life. There is never an excuse for terrorism. Once again we hurdled through a lifetime of emotion, and this time the whole nation and the global world of running spun with us.

Next Monday, April 21, perhaps we'll go through the most important lifetime yet-the one of getting some closure on the past and a brave, fresh look at the future. Everyone in the world who can run wants to run the 118th Boston Marathon next Monday. We all want to run for the same reason: to show that the important thing is to embrace the drama of the marathon, for all the wisdom and strength it gives us, for better or worse, to prevail, to be resilient, to show we deserve to be there and always will. Because to run makes us fearless, and a fearful world needs us.

Kathrine Switzer was in the habit of signing her college papers "K.V. Switzer" and did so when she registered for the all-male Boston Marathon in 1967. She wasn't the first woman to run the race, but her presence as an official entrant made her a visible and potent threat to the sports world's status quo. The simple gesture exploded when an official attacked Switzer on the course, grabbing for her race numbers and screaming and cursing at her before being body blocked by her boyfriend.

The incident was broadcasted worldwide and put a shocking face on the hostility to women's full participation in athletics. Time-Life listed it among its "100 Photographs that Changed the World." Her 38 subsequent marathons (she's still running them) include a win in New York in 1974. She led the successful drive to get the women's race into the Olympic Games, has won an Emmy for her TV commentary, and is the author of three books, including her memoir, Marathon Woman. Switzer's ongoing campaign to help women around the globe empower themselves through the simple act of running made her a 2011 Inductee into the National Women's Hall of Fame.

Courtesy of MAKERS.com

Kathrine Switzer: First Woman to Enter the Boston Marathon

Join the discussion

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lpengrg April 15 2014 at 9:39 AM

The second bomber still has not been to trial and we're paying for his legal fees, medical expenses, housing, food, etc This is wrong!

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2 replies
matilda524 lpengrg April 15 2014 at 10:16 AM

It's not unusual for a trial of this magnitude to take time - for one thing the defense asks for time to prepare.

He goes on trial in November, and I hope to see him fry.

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jurmik lpengrg April 15 2014 at 11:02 AM

Yes indeed as you also are paying for over 2 million people in the USA jails.

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1 reply
mizliz11 jurmik April 15 2014 at 12:41 PM

Get out of here "jurmik" or jalal, no one cares about you or your beliefs.

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rockymtn1500 April 15 2014 at 9:55 AM

WHY is the Boston Bomber still alive ? WHY is little to nothing been printed about him lately ? It almost appears someone is protecting him !

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3 replies
Debbie April 15 2014 at 9:55 AM

This woman's article is NOT ABOUT focus on human tragedies. It doesn't warrant calling people names, assuming political affiliation; it's about encouraging/empowering WOMEN (and others) to succeed despite unfair opposition resp4 robbing of fair OPPORTUNITY. Neither is this a narrow-minded, political article. Women are not necessarily liberal, not necessarily Democrats. Neither are all Bostonians Democrats. So, those blogging vs. "liberals" are logically unsubstantiated in doing so. car4068043 is the only blogger thus far, despite the New York hype, who understands what the article is even about. This is a well-written article by an American author who truly understands the Constitution. It's such a shame so many others can't see the forest through the trees.

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3 replies
dwc1863 April 15 2014 at 1:02 PM

Have it from a very good source (yeah I know, but if main stream media can do it I can) that many foreign visitors from the Middle East flying into US are being turned back at the airport. It's a start, but like catch water in a sieve. Our southern border is wide open.

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1 reply
miriamisrael1 dwc1863 April 15 2014 at 2:32 PM

That can't be true cause the ones with --money--- BIG MONEY that is--- are still coming in and out, still doing business here...... sooooooooo

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flexireal April 16 2014 at 2:36 AM

It's not about how fast you go but how far you go.

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Scott April 15 2014 at 8:52 AM

Katherine Switzer is a great role model for our wives, daughters, sisters and granddaughters. In a time in America where women are constantly under attack for being independent, wanting to take control of their medical decisions, determine their own lifestyles, professions, sexuality and follow their dreams she sets a standard to be followed.

Great article and a reminder that Women can and should strive for more.

My hats off to Ms. Switzer.

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flexireal April 16 2014 at 2:52 AM

To complete a 26 mile Marathon you need to train , yes , lots of 20 mile run and lots of hitting the wall , there for dieting also plays a big part , and say good by to your upper body Luggage .

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ae12wrangell April 15 2014 at 11:16 AM

'Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there; I do not sleep,
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on the snow,
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

Dedicated to Krystal Marie Campbell, 29 upon her death; Lu Lingzi, 23 upon his death; Martin William Richard, 8 upon his death; Sean A. Collier, 27 upon his death. All 4 were destined for Heaven, but went too early.

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1 reply
alspoolhall ae12wrangell April 15 2014 at 1:43 PM

Wonderful time to say this poem.Thank you for "telling" me about this beautiful poem as I wasn't familiar with it . . . by Elizabeth Frye, written in about 1932 . . . will finish reading up on it and her too.

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ae12wrangell April 15 2014 at 10:55 AM

I have a dream. That the United States can actually be a peaceful place, and there'd be no more bombings, school shootings, etc.

It wont happen, but it's my dream.

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2 replies
James M. Adams ae12wrangell April 15 2014 at 11:16 AM

When the highest ranking law enforcement official selectively prosecutes, and completely ignores certain criminal activity, you will have lawlessness

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mlaurel58 ae12wrangell April 15 2014 at 11:20 AM

Nothing the matter with having a dream or two...glad you are realistic about it.

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1 reply
ae12wrangell mlaurel58 April 15 2014 at 11:41 AM

Thankfully nothing real violent broke out where I live. I am not saying I am glad Boston got bombed, but actually sad. If only INS and that 'No-fly List' had worked before the 2 Chechnyans came back.

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matilda524 April 15 2014 at 10:13 AM

Greetings from Boston!

Hey - what are dead kids and fifty people with blown off legs, not to mention eyes lost and permanent hearing damage, as long as you can use it for your twisted comments.

The good news is that the outpouring of concern, love and donations for the victims from all over this country has been far more overwhelming than people whose lives are spent in a state of perpetual anger and hatred.

My son was across the street from the second bomb, waiting for his girlfriend who was running the marathon, and it was horrible. I know someone who lost their eye and live very near the Richardson family - you may want to look them up.

But we've never been people who really care what others think about us - Boston is city with so much going on that we don't spend our time in a perpetual rage. You don't like the stories? Tough. Don't read them.

Sorry-assed losers making jokes. Karma is a beautiful thing - I've never seen it feel.

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1 reply
matilda524 matilda524 April 15 2014 at 10:14 AM

Fail - not feel.

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