This Boy Can – Switzer’s Difference

In this weekly column on Women in Sport, Rob Hartnett dives a little deeper into issues surrounding Women in Sport. We shouldn’t need a column like this but until such time as reality matches rhetoric, let’s throw a few pebbles and see what ripples emerge…

Kathrine Switzer ran the Boston Marathon earlier this week in a time of 4 hours, 44 minutes and 31 seconds. She is 70 years old and was running in the race on the 50th anniversary of when she first did so. Her story is one of inspiration to those who believe in the concept of sport being for everyone.

On Monday she was one of near 12,000 women to complete the race. Back in 1967 she had to enter using only her initials, was physically assaulted during the race in an attempt to stop her, and was harangued afterwards by those who told her that Women had no place running in races.

She was expelled from the Athletic Union and, unable to race in America, set up her own series of Women’s races which took place in Canada.

She pushed, she harried, she cajoled and she battled with the accepted norms of her day to ensure that Women had the right to run if that was what they wanted to do.

In 1984 she was a driving force in the Olympics introducing a Women’s Marathon for the first time.

What would she make of Dublin’s Women’s Mini Marathon which will see 40,000 women hitting the streets of Dublin in June and so many more encouraged and empowered to run for fitness, friendship and because they want to.

Switzer ran in 1967 because that’s what she wanted to do. She was supported by friends who helped her fight off the race director who tried to physically drag her from the course. She was supported on Monday by 118 women and seven men who were raising money for her 261 Fearless Campaigning group.

Women run today with 261 tattooed on their arms when they run. Her advocacy was grounded more in wanting to prove a point that start a movement but isn’t that so often the case.

Her coach at Syracuse university didn’t think women would be able to run 26 miles so she set out to prove to him that she could.  Her 261Fearless organisation carries on the work that she started and the number itself was ‘retired’ from the Boston Marathon this year as a mark of respect for what she has done.

Kathrine Switzer made a difference.  She is an inspiration to those among you who continue to do what you want and refuse to back down in the face of those who say ‘that can’t happen’ and ‘that’s not possible.’


Join inspirational Blind Runner Sinead Kane, Leinster Rugby star Rob Kearney and Olympian Thomas Barr discussing the world of sponsorship as it relates to them as athletes; hear from AIG, Nissan, Allianz and Electric Ireland on why they look to build partnerships with sport away from the brightest lights and get great insight from Livewire on what sponsorship means on Wednesday, April 26th. Secure your place from only €40


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