Special Reports

From the archives | April 21, 1967

The Gals Bless ‘Em; Let ‘Em in

Paul Connell/ Globe Staff
Kathrine Switzer, center, was spotted early in the Boston Marathon by Jock Semple, center right, who tried to rip the number off her shirt and remove her from the race. Switzer's friends intervened, allowing her to make her getaway to become the first woman to "officially" run the Boston Marathon on April 19, 1967.

This article is from the Boston Globe archives. It was originally published on April 21, 1967.

The pictures went across the country on television and the wire services—grown men, with the The pictures went across the country on television and the wire services—grown men, with the approval of state police, trying to shove a woman off a public street. Suddenly Boston was getting a name as the Selma of fun-and-games.

It was a terrible thing to see, discoloring one of the town’s most glorious happenings, the Marathon. There were Will Cloney, the director, and Jock Semple, an aide, losing their poise and control, attacking Kathrine Switzer whose crime was that she wanted to run.

Fortunately Miss Switzer was protected by gentlemanly fellow competitors in the race. Too, she was in better shape than Cloney, Semple or the state cops, and she got away, continuing to the finish. Another female, Bobby Gibb, wasn’t mauled, but after she had run the 26 miles and 385 yards she was insulted by officials who refused to allow her across the finish line. What are these ill-mannered men trying to accomplish? We know chivalry is dead, but has it been replaced by boorishness?


The Marathon is Boston’s finest sporting event because of its wide-open nature, its embracing of everyman—the demented and the daring, the heroes and the hopeless. It is seen by more people and done by more people than any other spectacle we have.

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Tragedy, farce, thriller, problem play—the Marathon is all of these. Hemingway thought he had to go out and shoot lions to prove himself. A Newton cop named Frankie ‘O’Halloran does it by showing himself he can run all the way. “I made it,” he says, feeling like Hillary on Everest. One day in the year hundreds of nobodies stand out as better conditioned athletes than all of the town’s over-publicized professionals. Could any of the Red Sox do the Marathon?

And now the girls want in. It is everybody’s race, isn’t it, so why shouldn’t they be received politely? This isn’t the Olympics, remember. It’s the unique, marvelously mad Boston Marathon.

Those who know Cloney and Semple were saddened by their momentary fall from graciousness. Both are extremely nice guys whose devotion has helped to keep the Marathon going. But, like many people entrusted with maintaining a tradition, and preoccupied by it, they have forgotten what year this is. And they have forgotten that the Marathon’s distinction comes from the fact that it is everybody’s and Boston’s—not just the province of a few male Boston Athletic Assn. and A.A.U. officials.

Cloney is a better man than to say lamely after the race, “I know of no women who ran. Our rules do not permit women.” He was flustered.

Paul J. Connell/ The Boston Globe
Kathrine Switzer of and Rocky Chamberlain directly behind during marathon in 1967 Boston.


I suggest that the rule be repealed. I also suggest that Cloney issue a public apology to Miss Switzer and Miss -Gibb, and that examining physicians and dressing quarters be provided for any women who care to run in the future. They deserve consideration and treatment equal to that of the men.

Most runners weren’t as stuffy as the officials. Walter Bingham, an editor at Sports Illustrated was beaten by both Miss Switzer and Miss Gibb. “My thrill in the race was that Bobby ran beside me for a couple of miles. There I was—with a celebrity,” Bingham said.

Several officials have complained that the race is over-crowded. Nonsense. The good runners get ahead and aren’t bothered by the rest of the nuts. But no one could object to levying an entry fee to help pay growing administrative costs.

Perhaps if women are welcomed none will run. The element of naughtiness in crashing the Marathon will be gone. Still, they should be recognized as a fairly significant force in the country. They got the right to vote in 1920, and they should get the right to run in 1968. We need no more scenes of their being roughed up on Patriots’ Day.