The Amazing History Behind This Picture Of The Boston Marathon

Photo: Boston Globe/Getty Images.
Almost half of the 30,000 people running in the Boston Marathon today are women — but less than 50 years ago, women were prohibited from entering the race at all. Still, that didn't stop one amazing woman from sneaking in and running, way back in 1967.

Over at Deadspin, there is a great story about Kathrine Switzer, who was 19 when she entered the 1967 Boston Marathon. At the time, women weren't allowed in the race, but Switzer registered with a friend and used her initials, KV Switzer, which made the organizers think she was a man — at least until the race got underway.

As the story goes, when the marathon's directors realized there was a woman running with a race bib and number, they were so enraged that they tried to chase Switzer down and rip off her number. Switzer has said that one of these directors, as he tried to block her path, yelled, "Give me those numbers and get the hell out of my race!"

A photographer captured the confrontation on film, and it was these photos that made Switzer's story such a famous one. Within hours of the race, the photos were all over the news. Switzer was able to escape the clutches of the angry race organizers and finish the marathon in four hours and 20 minutes. Another woman, Bobbi Gibb, also ran the marathon in 1966 and 1967; she didn't register, but joined the runners unofficially.

It took another five years for the Boston Marathon to accept women, in the same year that President Nixon signed Title IX, the landmark law that opened up athletic opportunities to women and girls. It's worth celebrating the state of things today, now that the biggest challenge is training for the race — rather than signing up for it.

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