November 11, 2014 at 6:44
Posted by Rachael Woolston
If there is one woman who has done more to blaze the trail for women’s running it’s Kathrine Switzer
Imagine a time when, as a a woman, you would be denied entry to running a marathon. Or you were told that you shouldn’t run it because you might grow a moustache or your ovaries would shrivel up.
That is exactly what Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon, was told when she ran it back in 1967.
She and the number she wore, 261, has since became famous after photographs of a race official trying to push her off the course were broadcast around the world.
‘I was only in my twenties and it was terrifying,’ she admits as I joined her and just five other running coaches in Europe at the launch of her new #club261 initiative. ‘I thought it was the worst thing that had ever happened in my life.
‘But it ended up becoming one of the best things to happen to me in my life.’
The race official tried to remove Kathrine, who was just 20 at the time, just two miles into the race.
‘It was awful, I was terrified and I was mad. But I had 24 miles more to run and I couldn’t stay mad,’ she explains. ‘I told my coach that I was going to finish the race ben if I had to crawl on my hands and knees.
‘And as ran, I thought ‘what would change the system?’. The answer was to create more opportunities for women in sport.’
Fast forward to 2014, and the percentage of runners in the US who are women is a staggering 56%.
This is in part due to the initiatives that Kathrine took, helping to launch the Avon International Running Circuit of womens events reaching over a million women in 27 countries.
Now aged 67, Kathrine is not content to sit back and think that enough has been done for women’s sport and mass participation. Because it hasn’t.
Setting aside the basic freedom of women and girls who can not even participate in sports in countries like Iran and the Middle East, even in Europe, women’s running is not quite there yet.
In Spain for instance, where Kathrine has spearheaded the first women’s only marathon, 261 Women’s Marathon and 10k, only 18% of women participate in races.
With the Fitbitch Girls Run the World brand, we have seen evidence of this, most notably in Paris, Lake Garda, and Mumbai, where we were often the only women’s group racing.
But Kathrine has not stopped here. Her commitment is to get more girls and women running full stop.
‘I want to reach women all over the world through running,’ explains Kathrine. ‘The number I wore in Boston, 461, has come to represent women feeling fearless in the face of adversity.
‘We aim to use movement to globally communicate empowerment and fearlessness to women and connect them to each other.’
To this aim, Kathrine is launching a global network of girls and women’s running communities, #club261, – Fearless. It’s aim? To help more girls and women learn to run, as well as communicate with female runners all over the world via online forums.
A mission after our own heart, we at Girls Run the World and Fitbitch Run Club will be getting involved in this new initiative, helping spread the word with courses and taking that message to women worldwide on our trips.
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