Katherine Switzer And Other Female Runners Proving We’re Just As Capable As Men
The Debrief: These women prove that saying ‘I can,’ is so much more satisfying than saying ‘I can’t’ when it comes to running.
Last weekend, Kathrine Switzer ran her 39th marathon, aged 70. You may not know about Kathrine Switzer, but if you’re a female runner about to take on your first London Marathon, or 39th London Marathon, she’s the reason you’re allowed to run alongside men.
Back in 1967, Kathrine decided she wanted to take on the massive physical challenge of running 26 miles. Her coach told her she couldn’t, quite simply because women were deemed too ‘weak’ to run with men. Kathrine proved him wrong, and ran a marathon in training – so he entered her, under her initials, to the Boston marathon. Small history lesson for you, the Boston Marathon is the oldest continuously running marathon in the world, it officially started in 1897. You also now have to qualify with a time of around 3hrs 05mins to even race if you’re within the 18-34 age bracket.
Back in 1967, Kathrine was accepted,so she paid her $2 entry fee and went on to race. It wasn’t until she was actually pacing along the Boston pavement that an official, Jock Semple, spotted her from a car and demanded she stop and give back her, now iconic, 261 bib. After managing to get away, and went on to complete her first marathon.
Since then, Kathrine has gone on to become an author, athlete and an advocate for women runners across the globe. She has raced in 39 marathons, and in 1974 she won the New York City marathon. She’s the founder of the Avon International Running Circuit – a series of 400 women’s races for over 1 million women, and she even persuaded the International Olympics Committee to accept women’s marathon into the event – which was first introduced in time for the 1984 Summer Olympics.
While I have personally only recently started my own running journey this year – one which I’ve had to reign in and hit pause on marathon training till next year due to an injury – I am so grateful for women like Kathrine who continue to inspire and push the boundaries of females in athletics.
Because even with women like Kathrine breaking these boundaries in endurance sport, the ratio of men to women competing is still around 80% male, and 20% female – which is why the below mentioned women, along with Kathrine, running daily prove that we are not weak, nor are we inferior to men in sport, nor are we physically incapable. They prove that saying ‘I can,’ is so much more satisfying than saying ‘I can’t’ when it comes to running.
I was lucky enough to get to train with Becs on a regular basis back when I started my marathon training. Becs is a Nike run coach, co-founder of Run With The Lab, personal trainer and all round incredible women. Her sheer determination and willpower alone is unimaginable. Most recently she took on the terrifying The Speed Project, which involved running the 340 miles from LA to Las Vegas in a relay style race. A race most people would rather avoid at all costs, Becs ran for over 36 hours, 20 minutes and 25 seconds pushing her body to whole new levels of discomfort and pain. And what happened? She did it, she achieved a goal and she proved that women, are EQUALLY as strong as men.
Sorrel Walsh is the founder of WMN Run, a female run collective championing female endurance and pushing the boundaries of running. Sorrell was inspired by her brother’s own Marathon journey, so she decided to join in herself, and now she’s run everything from 5k to 100k. Just last weekend, Sorrell raced in the Boston Marathon (the very same one Katherine just ran) and not only did she come 50th out of all the women involved, she was the 1st British woman to come in with a time of 2.54.50.
Cat is the perfect example of how running and travel can be the perfect companions. An endurance runner and coach, she spends her time travelling for races (like ultra-marathons). She’s run in over 30 events, including 20+ marathons and over 10 ultras. That makes my legs ache just thinking about it. Oh, and she has a degree in human genetics so her ‘sports bullshit detector’ is always switched on.
Claudia is a designer, coach, endurance athlete, the co-founder of Advent Running and a captain for AdidasRunners LDN. Her Instagram is full of imagery so dreamy you're going to want to get out of your office to run immediately, and she’s raced in events like the brutal 125km trial Transgrancanaria. Make sure you head down to Adidas Runners if you live in London for the chance to be coached by Claudia, you'll thank yourself after.
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