Boston Marathon: Women Have Come a Long Way

By the time runners take off on Monday for a 26.2 mile running tour of Boston and surrounding communities, I expect the flap over Hillary Rosen’s ill-advised comment about stay-at-home moms will pretty much have run the course of the 24-hour news cycle.

In case you were preoccupied with news about the Kardashians and missed the Rosen flap, the Democratic strategist and CNN opiner essentially said that Ann Romney didn’t know anything about the economic issues facing women since she had “never worked a day in her life.”

Oops. Even Wolf Blitzer found that one hard to swallow.

Rosen’s comments ignited a shitstorm about issues involving women and families that go back decades, apparently with no resolution in sight.

Fortunately, the Boston Marathon has a better and more positive story to tell.

Here’s from Runner’s World, “2012: An Anniversary Year for Women in Boston“:

Last year, 43 percent of Boston Marathon entrants were women, so it’s hard to fathom that, not so long ago, women weren’t allowed to enter the famous race at all.

Image via RW Archive

Forty-five years ago, in 1967, Kathrine Switzer—a 20-year-old student from Syracuse University—became the first woman with a bib number to complete the course. (Bobbi Gibb ran the previous year, but she, technically, bandited the race.) Switzer registered under the name K.V. Switzer, and when race director Jock Semple discovered that “K.V.” was a woman, he tried to forcibly remove her from the course. Deadspin‘s write-up of Switzer’s Boston debut features the famous photos of the attack, along with Switzer’s 2002 statements on it and an excerpt from a Sports Illustrated story on Semple that portrays him as “some sort of deranged, woman-hating Groundskeeper Willie.” (And here’s a great video interview PBS did with Switzer.)

Over the next few years, Switzer, along with Nina Kuscsik and Sara Rae Berman, worked on lobbying the Amateur Athletic Union (the sport’s governing body at the time) for the official inclusion of women. Finally, in 1972, women were allowed into the Boston Marathon, but they had to meet the same qualifying standards as the men (3:30) and they were supposed to have a separate starting line. Kuscsik (in photo above) went on to win in 3:10:26.

Good luck to all the runners in the Boston Marathon — women and men. Just getting there is quite an accomplishment.


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