The top right corner is missing.
That part of Kathrine Switzer’s 261 bib from the 1967 Boston Marathon was collateral damage. It serves as a small reminder of Jock Semple’s attempt to snatch it off her back and throw her out of the race, simply for running alongside men.
But Switzer still has the bib.
“I have it hidden in my house,” Switzer told the Globe in a recent telephone interview. “No, you would never find it. My house is a mess. Everything’s piled up. Heaps and heaps and heaps. Paper and stuff like that.
“I mean, if it caught on fire, I wouldn’t get it in time, I’m sure. But it’s not locked in a safe deposit box.”
Over the years, the three-digit number has become symbolic. Switzer has received letters and emails with messages and photos from women who had run with the bib number 261, written the number on their arms for motivation, or even had it tattooed.
An encounter with Edith Zuschmann at a 2012 news conference in Austria led to the idea to do something more with the number. That put into motion the creation of 261 Fearless, a foundation focused on empowering women through running. It aims to create and foster running communities in which women can run safely and together to help build confidence in all aspects of life. Together with Zuschmann, Horst von Bohlen, Chris Grack, and Howard Lipset, 261 Fearless came to fruition in the fall of 2015.
After the announcement of the foundation, numerologists contacted Switzer and her team to offer their perspective on the meaning of three digits. One offered this interpretation: Two-six-one adds up to nine and nine is indivisible. Switzer also received an email from an admirer who pointed out that two-six-one is fitting because at 26.1 miles, a runner knows she can cross the marathon finish line.
“And then the Title IX people called up and said, ‘Oh, we love 2-6-1. It adds up to Title IX!’ ” Switzer said.
“It’s hilarious. And I’m just sitting there shaking my head. I just thought it was three digits.”
To mark the 50th anniversary of being the first woman to complete the Boston Marathon with a bib, Switzer will run on Monday wearing those same three numbers.Rachel G. Bowers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @RachelGBowers.