When Heather began her running journey about 10 years ago, she admittedly knew little about the sport, from what to wear and fuel with during a race, to an understanding of how women had only in recent history made strides in running and been recognized for their achievements. All she knew was that the more she ran, the better she felt about herself. Over time, as she ran with other women, created new friendships within the awesome running community, and ultimately realized logging miles and living healthy had become a lifestyle, she found she couldn’t get enough of learning anything and everything about running—especially distance running. She would eventually discover that 26.2 miles held a special place in her heart. Incredibly challenging and uniquely rewarding, both in training and in finishing, the marathon is a distance she keeps coming back to. For this reason, she devoured the book Marathon Woman by Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially enter and run the Boston Marathon in 1967. This decision infuriated one of the race directors, who tried to physically remove Kathrine from the race because she was a female running in what was then considered an all-male event. The images of her struggle to continue running, helped by male runners, have become iconic in the history of sports and women. First published in 2007, Marathon Woman is Kathrine’s personal story of how she overcame the odds—as well as prejudice and ridicule (not only from the male quarter)—to become one of the leading marathon runners of her time. Inspired by the incident, she went on to run thirty-nine marathons—winning the New York City Marathon in 1974—and helped secure the women’s marathon as an event in the Olympic Games.
Kathrine has gone on to accomplish so much on behalf of our sport and women everywhere. Kathrine joins Heather on this episode of the Michigan Runner Girl show. Heather also has another strong and amazing woman joining the conversation, to share her connection with Kathrine and Kathrine’s new non-profit 261 Fearless. Marathoner and Michigan runner Leah Doriot talks about her upcoming NYC Marathon and why it was important for her to join team 261 Fearless.
Kathrine is leading a group of 13 dedicated “261 Fearless” runners, including 11 from the USA (seven different States), and one each from Belgium and Switzerland at this fall's NYC Marathon. The women will all be raising $5,261 each to benefit the formation of 261 Fearless running clubs for women all over the world and their participation will be supported by adidas and Bose, global sponsors for 261 Fearless.
On April 17, 2017, 50 years after her historic run, Switzer pinned on her original bib number 261, and ran the Boston Marathon again, to pay tribute to the streets of the city where the place of women in the world of sports was redefined forever.
Kathrine Switzer will run the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon on November 5, posting another amazing milestone in her legendary long-distance running career by competing in both the upcoming TCS New York City Marathon and this past April’s 121st running of the Boston Marathon in her fifth decade of competitive running.
261 Fearless, Inc. is a global non-profit organization founded by pioneer runner, Kathrine Switzer. 261 Fearless uses running as a vehicle to empower and unite women globally through the creation of local clubs, education opportunities, communication platform, merchandising and events. Through these networking opportunities, 261 Fearless breaks down the barriers of geography and creates a global community for women runners of all abilities to support and talk to each other, encouraging healthy living and a positive sense of self and fearlessness.