It is hard to imagine living in a time when women’s distance running does not exist because it is considered to be too strenuous and too much of a health hazard women. As hard as it is to believe, there was a time when the sport of women’s distance running was frowned upon, and it wasn’t too long ago. To give you a quick idea, the women’s marathon was not an event in the Olympics until 1984.
Though I consider myself an avid runner, it wasn’t until I began reading Marathon Woman by Kathrine Switzer that I fully began to understand the history of women’s distance running. It is hard to imagine how far distance running has come for us, and we truly owe it all to Kathrine Switzer. She pioneered the trails, roadways, sidewalks, and track for us.
While she is most famously known for her appearance in the 1967 Boston Marathon, which at the time was an all male event, there is so much more to this amazing woman. Early in her life she found a passion for running. She described it as her “secret weapon” because of how powerful it made her feel. Her passion, devotion, and love of the sport are evident on every page of the book and by reading it I gained a newly found appreciation for running myself.
On that fateful April day in 1967, Kathrine Switzer ran in the Boston Marathon as “K.V. Switzer,” and in an instant she became an icon in women’s sports as race official Jock Semple tried to literally push and shove her out of the race. He chased her down yelling at her to get out of his race. It really is disgusting how things were about 50 years ago. This incident truly ignited a fire in Kathrine and she did not stop fighting for women’s distance running.
I truly enjoyed reading this book. I still cannot believe just how far women’s distance running has come since the 1960s and how it was viewed back then. I am actually disgusted to think that men once believed that women were too frail and too weak to run distances longer than 800 meters, let alone 26.2 miles. Throughout reading this book, I found it extremely interesting to learn about the history of my sport. There have been so many amazing women who have helped create a path so that we can now enjoy distance running the way we do today. I am thankful for all of Kathrine Switzer’s contributions, as well as everyone else’s, to the sport I love so much. I highly recommend that all female runners read this book. It is simply inspiring.
On a final note, several years back former Olympic medalist Lorraine Moller (from New Zealand) spoke at a Saturday training session for my running club. At the time I did not realize how amazing this opportunity was for me to hear her stories. She spoke with my club and then ran several miles with us. While reading this book, I came across her name and I realized just how lucky I was to meet her and actually have the opportunity to run with her. Lorraine Moller ran in the women’s inaugural Olympic marathon in 1984 in Los Angeles and came in fifth. In Barcelona in 1992, she came in third and earned a bronze medal. Lorraine’s book is also on my to-read list.