scorecardresearch Skip to main content

Kathrine Switzer helped spark a revolution in women’s running: ‘If you want to lift a woman up, show her how to run’

On the R.I. Report podcast, Switzer recounts becoming first woman to enter and run the Boston Marathon, and coach Bob Rothenberg looks ahead to Sunday’s Women’s Classic 5K in Providence

In the 1967 Boston Marathon, race official Jock Semple tried to rip bib number 261 from Kathrine Switzer, but her then-boyfriend, Tom Miller, shoved Semple out of the way.Boston Herald, courtesy of Kathrine Switzer

PROVIDENCE — At the two-mile mark of the 1967 Boston Marathon, Kathrine Switzer heard the scraping sound of leather-soled shoes coming up fast behind her.

“I turned instinctively,” Switzer recalled on the Rhode Island Report podcast. “And when I turned, I looked suddenly right into the face of the angriest man I’ve ever seen. And I was just totally frightened.”

She recounts how race official Jock Semple tried to rip off her bib number — 261 — and screamed at her, “Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers!”

Her then-boyfriend, former All-American football player Tom Miller, hit Semple with a shoulder block, knocking him off his feet, and her coach, Arnie Briggs, yelled, “Run like hell!”


Switzer kept running — becoming the first woman to officially enter and run the Boston Marathon and, in the process, helping to spark a revolution in women’s running.

A conference room in the Boston Globe offices is etched with the image of Tom Miller knocking away race official Jock Semple as he tries to seize race bib number 261 from Kathrine Switzer in the 1967 Boston Marathon.Scott Helman

On the podcast, Switzer, now 76, talks about how she will be returning to the Boston area this weekend to run in two races — the Boston 10K for Women in Boston on Saturday, and the Women’s Classic 5K in Providence on Sunday.

She talks about co-founding 261 Fearless, a nonprofit that offers education and running opportunities for women around the world, including chapters in Providence and Boston. “If you want to lift a woman up, show her how to run,” she said. “It’s that simple.”

And Switzer talks about how she feels when she sees women running.

“I don’t have any children of my own,” she said. “But every time I see a woman runner, I say, ‘She’s one of mine.’ So I feel wonderful, prideful. Mostly, I feel that most of these women don’t have to think twice about their entitlement to run, and that is a fabulous, fabulous feeling.”


Bob Rothenberg — the former Brown University’s men’s and women’s track & field and cross-country coach who now coaches the Ronald McDonald House of Providence Running Club — joins Switzer on the podcast, describing the impact she has had.

“Your influence, the step you took for women, goes far beyond just running,” Rothenberg told Switzer. ”When you look around college and high school and kids sports, you see women playing rugby, you see women playing soccer. Wrestling has started at a collegiate level now for women. You made a statement by what you did, and that statement was ‘We can do anything. Why not us?’ ”

Rothenberg talks about how four women trailblazers will be attending Sunday’s race in Providence: In addition to Switzer, Olympians and Rhode Island residents Molly Huddle and Marielle Hall will be there, along with the first female president of the Boston Athletic Association, Joann Flaminio.

And he talks about how Sunday’s event raises money for the Ronald McDonald Houses in Providence and Boston.

“Ronald McDonald Houses have the same basic mission all over the world, and that’s to provide sort of a home away from home for families that have a child being treated at local hospitals,” he said. “We provide housing for the families of the children that are being treated at the hospital. Siblings, mom, and dad can stay with us. A bedroom and a home cooked meal every evening and an opportunity to interact with other families struggling with the same kinds of issues.”


For more on her historic Boston Marathon run, watch a video excerpt from Switzer’s memoir, “Marathon Woman,” before tuning in to the Rhode Island report podcast.

To get the latest episode each week, follow Rhode Island Report podcast on Apple Podcasts and other podcasting platforms, or listen in the player above.

Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at Follow him @FitzProv.