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Mount Holyoke College
Weissman Center for Leadership

Kathrine Switzer Biography

Kathrine Switzer

Iconic athlete, sports and social advocate, author, and Emmy award-winning television commentator, Kathrine Switzer was the first woman to officially enter and run the Boston Marathon.

Sports history changed in 1967 when she officially registered and finished that famous race. It was still a men's only event in those days and Switzer's entry created a worldwide uproar when the race director attacked her mid-stride and tried to remove her from the event. The photo of this incident flashed around the globe and became one of Time-Life's "100 Photos that Changed the World."

Radicalized by the incident, Switzer campaigned for sports equality for women, and to create opportunities for them. Official status came in the Boston Marathon in 1972; later that year she was one of the creators of the first women's road race…and the women's running boom was on. Switzer went on to run 39 marathons, and won the New York City Marathon in 1974. She ran her personal best in 1975, finishing second in Boston (2:51:33). She then put her substantial energies into creating the Avon International Running Circuit of women's only races in 27 countries with over a million women participating from 1978 to the present. It was this series of events, which showed global participation and performances that largely convinced the International Olympic Committee to include a women's marathon for the first time in the 1984 Olympic Games. Because of its global impact, Switzer regards her work for the first women's Olympic Marathon to be her greatest accomplishment.

Switzer is an Emmy award-winning TV commentator and has covered the Olympic Games, World and National Championships as well as the New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles marathons and every televised edition of the Boston Marathon (34 consecutive years!). She is a dynamic public speaker, journalist and author of three books, including her memoir, "Marathon Woman." Other books include "26.2 Marathon Stories," co-authored with her husband, Roger Robinson, and "Running and Walking for Women Over 40."

Switzer speaks, commentates and runs all over the globe, and at 65 is still running marathons, having completed the Berlin Marathon in 2011 to launch the German edition of "Marathon Woman." She also won her age group in the extremely difficult 2011 Motatapu off-road mountain marathon in New Zealand, and in 2010 fulfilled a lifetime dream of running the 2500th anniversary race of the Athens Marathon.

In 2011 when she was inducted into the U.S.A. National Women's Hall of Fame, it was not just for breaking barriers but also for creating positive global social change. Because of her, millions of women are now empowered by the simple act of running. Or as Kathrine says, "It's not about running. It's about changing people's lives."

Switzer's Career Highlights Include:

- Inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in October 2011 for creating positive global social change.

- Winner, 1974 NYC Marathon

- Broke Gender Barrier at 1967 Boston Marathon

- Emmy Award-winning TV commentator

- Author, "Marathon Women" (DaCapo Press), "Running and Walking for Women Over 40, the Road to Sanity and Vanity" (St. Martin's Press), co-author "26.2 Marathon Stories" (Rodale Press)

- Founder and former director of the Avon Running Global Women's Circuit- 400 races, 27 countries, 1 million women

- Winner of Abebe Bikila Award for Global Contribution to Sport of Running from New York Road Runners

- First class of inductees into the National Distance Running Hall of Fame

- Named one of the Visionaries of the Century (2000) and a Hero of Running (2012) and Runner of the Decade (1966-76) by "Runners World" Magazine