This Thanksgiving Week, I am thankful for many things in my life: my family’s health, the (very expensive, very new) roof over our heads, and for Bobbi and KV.
“Bobbi” is Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb and “KV” is Kathrine “KV” Switzer. If it weren’t for these two athletes, I might not have a race number and a very important date with the Boston Marathon on April 18, 2011.
You see, around about the time the world was bracing for my birth, these women were blazing the trail for me and every other female runner to follow. It wasn’t until 1972—you read that right, 1972!—that women were allowed to enter the Boston Marathon. Bobbi and KV were the ones to spark that change. Before then, a measly 1.5 miles was all the world thought the female body could endure. You read that right too: the Couch to 5K program many of you have been contemplating was utterly off-limits for females just four short decades ago.
In 1966, Bobbi wrote to the BAA asking for a Boston Marathon application. All she got was a terse response saying silly girl, women are not physiologically capable of running 26 miles and are banned from doing so under the rules governing international sports. So she did what any woman of chutzpah would do: on race day, she donned a frumpy sweatshirt and her brother’s Bermuda shorts. She hid behind a forsythia bush near the Hopkinton start line and jumped in as the all-male pack passed by. Some 26 miles later, she became the first woman to run the entire Boston Marathon.
Syracuse University undergrad Kathrine Switzer upped the ante the very next year: instead of asking nicely, she filled out a 1967 race application using the gender-neutral moniker “K. V. Switzer” and plunked down her $3 entry fee. The BAA unwittingly issued race number 261 to a girl. Frumpy sweatshirts seem to have played an important role in early women’s Boston Marathon history, for KV wore her own frumpy sweatshirt to the start line that day, with the hood cinched tightly around her face to hide her feminine features. Race official Jock Semple tried to rip off her numbers and eject her from the race once her hood was removed and her gender revealed, but Kathrine persevered and became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon with a race number.
If you’re a female or a runner or happen to be remotely fond of a female or a runner, I urge you to read Bobbi’s story in her own words and KV’s story as recounted by Gail Waesche Kislevitz. What amazing women and athletes they are. Thank you, Bobbi and KV.
Thank you, too, to my growing list of sponsors and well-wishers; because of you, I easily cruised right past my first fundraising deadline: $500 of my $5,000 fundraising commitment is due by 12/22. As of Thanksgiving Day, I have $1,505 in my account, $3,495 left to fundraise. Thank you one and all—and for those of you still looking to donate, please visit my Children’s Hospital Sponsor My Run Page to do so.
Here’s hoping your Thanksgiving was great and your sweatshirts are of the non-frumpy variety,