Female Inspiration: Kathrine Switzer

We have been inspired by the recent Boston Marathon. As well as the sheer task of completing a 26.1mile course, we came across an inspiring story that we wanted to share with you.

At Activate Sport we believe that everyone ought to have access to sporting opportunities. In 2010 we even set up our own Foundation to give those less fortunate the opportunity to access sport. One of our aims is to work with National Governing Bodies (NGBs) in sport to use our model to help get children active. We are not motivated by focussing on creating the next superstar, but we do want to inspire everyone to play and have a passion for sport.

This includes girls! Some of our team have coached elite girls sport and we have set up successful projects in girls sport such as the International Netball Roadshow and Ultimate Lacrosse Experience. We felt that there were fewer opportunities for girls to play sport and learn from others in their school holidays as the holiday camp market was centred around boys only sports.

Since the Flintoff Academy began, we have had nearly 1000 girls through our doors and we love to hear messages from parents thanking us for helping them overcome any stereotypical barriers that stopped them taking part. In essence, this is exactly what Kathrine Switzer did when she became the first female to compete in the Boston Marathon in 1967.

Kathrine’s story is remarkable and almost fairytale-esque. So much so we felt we had to share it with you. The Boston Marathon had been an all-male event for 70 years and there were several prejudices about women running such a long distance.  She entered as K V Switzer, clearly the organisers had no way of knowing that K stood for Kathrine and not Keith!

Once the race was well underway Kathrine received a lot of excitement and positivity from her fellow runners. Alas not everyone was quite so complementary and the course director, Jock Semple chased after her and tried to pull her down to stop her and rip off her race number (#261). He yelled “Get the hell outta my race and give me those race numbers”. Her boyfriend who was also running, came across and body checked the official and Kathrine carried on to finish the race in 4 hours 20 minutes.

Kathrine then campaigned for the right for women to run and in 1972 women were officially allowed to compete at Boston, widely regarded as the mecca for marathon running. She also had success in campaigning for the women’s marathon to be part of the Olympics.

We believe that everyone, boys and girls should have the right and access to sporting opportunities and Kathrine inspired us to share this story with you.

So where is the fairytale ending? Kathrine married the man who knocked Jock Semple out of the way!