In 1967, the bib number 261 at the Boston Marathon was assigned to “K.V. Switzer,” a 20-year-old journalism student at Syracuse University.
What race organizers presumably didn’t know (until the two-mile mark on April 19) was that the “K” stood for Kathrine.
Kathrine V. Switzer became the first woman with an official number to run the Boston Marathon on April 19, 1967, despite race director Jock Semple’s attempt to forcefully stop her near the two-mile mark in what became an iconic moment.
“He screamed at me, ‘Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers!’” Switzer recalled in a recent ESPN feature “The Legacy of 261.”
After her boyfriend shouldered Semple out of the way, Switzer was able to continue.
“I realized that if I quit this race, which I felt for a split second like doing because I was so scared and embarrassed,” she said, “if I quit that race, nobody would’ve believed women deserved to be there or that they could do the distance. And I said, ‘Arnie, I’m going to finish this race on my hands and my knees if I have to.’”
Switzer went on to finish the race in 4 hours and 20 minutes.
Now 50 years later, the bib number 261 at the Boston Marathon has been assigned to “Kathrine V. Switzer.”
Switzer and 120 members of her nonprofit 261 Fearless, which aims to empower women around the world through running, will run this year’s race, along with thousands of other women.