After five decades of buzz around the Boston Marathon’s bib number 261, the holy grail of all North American road races has decided to push it into retirement.
On the 50th anniversary of Kathrine Switzer’s iconic run in the streets of Boston, the Boston Athletic Association is announcing that going forward, no runner will ever again pin a bib with the number 261 printed on the front. The race is retiring the bib in honour of Switzer.
The number is a significant one in the history of the Boston Marathon, women’s running, and the road running scene as a whole.
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Back in 1967, Switzer was the first woman to run the Boston course with an official race bib (Note: Roberta Gibb was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon and ran bib-less in 1966). In the late-1960’s women were not permitted to enter the race but knowing her own physical potential, Switzer decided to run the marathon anyway. She signed up for the race but under the name “K.V. Switzer” as as to be illusive about her gender.
When race director Jock Semple spotted her on the course though, he rushed to her and tried to drag her off the course. He didn’t succeed. Switzer finished in 4:20 and devoted her life to evening the playing field for women in running. She went on to work to get women allowed into the Boston Marathon, has inspired women around the globe and, notably, pushed to get the women’s marathon into the Olympics which happened in 1984.
She has also started a foundation named after her bib. 261 Fearless was created to instill confidence among women and empower them through running.
Now, Switzer is preparing to tie up her shoes again. On Monday, she will race the Boston Marathon to celebrate the 50th anniversary since she first did so.
With files from Associated Press.
For a full in-depth interview on Kathrine Switzer’s iconic run and her thoughts on running again after 50 years, see here.
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