iRun because I cannot say no to a second slice of chocolate cakeEmily Shandruk , Vancouver, BC

iRun to stay fit and release those running endorphinsLiliana Plava , Calgary, AB

iRun because I want to qualify for Boston and raise money for charities near and dear to my heartChristine Gracel , Calgary, AB

iRun because it makes me feel good, allows me to spend time with my friends and gives me a feeling of accomplishmentHelen Kolodziejzyk , Calgary, AB

iRun but not enoughMichael Shaw , New Westminister, BC

iRun because I never thought I would be able toGary Morris , Winnipeg, MB

iRun to challenge myself, physically and mentallyKathleen Keenan , Brampton, ON

iRun because people around me inspire mePina Bevilacqua , Caledon, ON

iRun therefore I amDuncan Walsh , Nottingham, UK

iRun because I liveGeorges Schneller , Laval, QC

iRun to be free and enjoy our beautiful countryCheryl Carter , Clearwater , BC

iRun for overall wellbeingTrish McCourt , Halifax, NS

iRun because it makes me a better person, a better wife, a better mother and a better friendNathalie Joncas-Caissie , St-Antoine, NB

iRun because it makes me feel powerfulCarlene Paquette , Carp, ON

iRun because pecan pie, french fries and beer are chasing meTeresa Sterling , Ottawa , ON

iRun because it’s in meMichael Foley , Stittsville, ON

iRun because it reminds me that I am capable of so much more than I have doneJames Sauve , Ottawa, ON

iRun for meKiza Francis , Ottawa,ON

iRun to prove to myself I canLesley McGougan , Brampton, ON

iRun because all the ladies are chasing my sexy runner’s bodyChris Baker , Etobicoke, ON

iRun because I can and I’m gratefulTerry SanCartier , Gatineau, QC

iRun because when I run I feel most aliveMeghan Lynch , Ottawa, ON

iRun to unleash my inner athleteAdelle Densham , Avonmore, ON

iRun because it cleans up my life, because I drink more water, sleep better and eat healthier foodsRobin McIntyre , Ottawa, ON

iRun because of the peace and strength it brings meMichelle Jordan , Ottawa, ON

iRun because I need it to soothe the soul, keep me in shape and for overall wellbeingBeth Neil , Lombardy, ON

iRun because it is my tonic and my salvation Georgia Ioannou , British Columbia

iRun for relaxation and to motivate my two sonsKeith Bradbury , Newfoundland

iRun because endorphins are freeCassandra Chouinard , Ontario

iRun because somebody once told me I couldn’t Heidi Abbey-Der , Saskatchewan

iRun because couch potatoes die young Cathy Andrew , Ontario

iRun because it’s cheaper than therapy Leah Boulter , Alberta

iRun because I like buying running clothes Pamela Blaikie , Ontario

iRun slowly!Jason Hoffman , Manitoba

iRun because it gives me freedom to relax my brainMarie-Claude Gregoire , Nova Scotia

iRun because I learn more about who I am with every kmSteph Mansell , Quebec

iRun because iEat Sherry Maligaspe , British Columbia

iRun and run, and run, and run, and nobody can stop me Andrei Lucaciu , Ontario

iRun because the wall is meant to be broken Jonathan Bird , Ontario

iRun because it has saved my life John Marshall , Alberta

iRun for the challenge to go faster and farther Steven Matejka , Alberta

iRun to my happy place and some days it’s very Doreen May , Alberta

iRun because food tastes better afterwards Patrick Houston , Alberta

iRun because I can’t dance Mario Javier , Ontario

iRun so I don’t say never ever again Linda Klaric , Manitoba

iRun because it makes me whole Denis Ladouceur , Quebec

iRun because it gets my husband out there Tricia LaLonde , Alberta

iRun away from the negative and towards the positive Teri Lepard , Alberta

iRun because running is like breathing to Stephanie McEvoy , Ontario

iRun because I love the solitude Janene Tailleur , British Columbia

iRun for the moment when both feet are off the ground Catherine Anderson , British Columbia

iRun to someday win the race Lindy Dunlop , Yukon

iRun to stay ahead of the weight gainMyra Abstreiter , Alberta

iRun because otherwise I’m grumpy Alexandre Charest , Quebec

iRun because I get foot rubs afterward Kate Howerton , British Columbia

iRun because iLoves my man Beverly Huang , Alberta

iRun because not everyone can Olivia Harvey , New Brunswick

iRun to get to know myself, my strength and my spirit Lisa Groulx , Ontario

iRun whenever I feel the need to escape Iona Hillis , Ontario

iRun because it’s like flying, only lower Glenn Johnson , Ontario

iRun because it makes me feel powerful Sarah Kallaghan , Alberta

iRun because I’ve lost 80 lbs and running has become fun Cheryl Kelly , Ontario

iRun because there is no finish line Claire Kilgour , Ontario

iRun so my daughters know that they can, too Shelley Kirkpatrick , New Brunswick

iRun because it reminds me of how strong I can be Monique Lavoie , Ontario

iRun because it’s a great way to see the world Sherry Mahoney , British Columbia

iRun because my heart tells me to William Martin , Manitoba

iRun to prove to them that iCan Catherine Smith , Manitoba

iRun because it’s fun when it’s done Sue Matte , Ontario

iRun because I am not as clumsy I thought I was Hanna Baer , Quebec

iRun see where my feet will take me todayMegan Dolinskas , New York

iRun for the cool t-shirts! Pina Bevilacqua , Ontario

iRun because I want to be a role model for our six kids Catherine Empey , British Columbia

iRun to inspire my kids to tryGlen Johnston , Nunavut

iRun so I can eat ice cream Sandy Bolan , Ontario

iRun because I want to live to be 100! Colette DeJean , Ontario

iRun for health, i Run for life Pat Cheung , British Columbia

iRun because it gives my day a boost of energy Sara Campbell , Nova Scotia

iRun because it’s better than almost everything else Nathan Carey , Ontario

iRun at 50 years old because at 43 I couldn’t Peter Cicalo , Ontario

iRun because it's better than almost everything else Nathan Carey , Ontario

iRun at 50 years old because at 43 I couldn't Peter Cicalo , Ontario

iRun because it is my tonic and my salvation Georgia Ioannou , British Columbia

iRun for relaxation and to motivate my two sons Keith Bradbury , Newfoundland

iRun because endorphins are free Cassandra Chouinard , Ontario

iRun because somebody once told me I couldn't Heidi Abbey-Der , Saskatchewan

iRun because couch potatoes die young Cathy Andrew , Ontario

iRun because it's cheaper than therapy Leah Boulter , Alberta

iRun because I like buying running clothes Pamela Blaikie , Ontario

iRun slowly! Jason Hoffman , Manitoba

iRun because it gives me freedom to relax my brain Marie-Claude Gregoire , Nova Scotia

iRun because I learn more about who I am with every km Steph Mansell , Quebec

iRun because iEat Sherry Maligaspe , British Columbia

iRun for my heart, so it runs for me! Cathy Brzoza , British Columbia

iRun to inspire my children! Wendy Bowen , Manitoba

iRun because it sure beats the bus Robin Robbins , Alberta

iRun for the challenge and to remember to fully live Pascale Synnott , Québec

iRun to kickstart my day Sharon Strueby , Saskatchewan

iRun for me! Judi Wearing , Saskatchewan

iRun because it's a great stress release Brooke McKenzie , Yukon

iRun because i love to Mirella Petriello , Ontario

iRun because it helps me see things more clearly Jennifer Pitts , Ontario

iRun to eat Maureen Tritscher , Alberta

iRun to correct years of sedentary living! Mike Scott , Ontario

iRun away from the abyss Charlene Thomas , Ontario

iRun all the livelong day Pierre Saint-Laurent , Québec

iRun to challenge my perceived limitations Cassandra Williams , Ontario

iRun to maintain a strong physical and mental state Tammy Rainville , Ontario

iRun so that I can live longer and stronger Derek MacPhail , Ontario

iRun to feel great Kathryn Rachar , Saskatchewan

iRun because I like to be healthy Melanie Oickle , New Brunswick

iRun to eat more, especially sweet potatoe fries Joanna Skomra , Ontario

iRun for the fresh air and adrenalin Charlyn McGregor , Saskatchewan

iRun for the individual pursuit Robert Pelletier , New Brunswick

iRun to satisfy the irresistible urge Tim Nixon , British Columbia

iRun because I love the sense of accomplishment Amber Moase , Nova Scotia

iRun to challenge my mind, body and soul Sonia Mendes , Ontario

iRun because walking is too slow Barry Knapp , Ontario

Charity, Motivation, News, Racing

Kathrine Switzer on Boston, Ed Whitlock, Lanni Marchant, empowerment and the State of Women in Running


Kathrine Switzer changed the world. In 1967, she became the first woman to successfully complete the Boston Marathon, a run that was nearly interrupted when race official Jock Semple tried to wrestle her off the course. Switzer wouldn’t be thwarted by Semple and, though Boston didn’t officially allow women to participate in their race until 1972, Switzer herself was just getting started. After completing her marathon, she dedicated her life to equal rights in athletics and the 1974-winner of the New York Marathon would go on to become the founder of the Avon International Running Circuit, which reached 1-million women in 27 countries. Her work was instrumental in getting women to compete in the Olympic marathon, beginning with the 1984 Olympic Games. Last month, she revisited Boston and once again made history at the world’s most famous race. This weekend, Switzer will be appearing at the Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon, including in an interview with iRun GM Ben Kaplan at 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 6. We caught up with Switzer as she made her way to Toronto. 

iRun: Congratulations on completing another Boston marathon.  

Switzer: It was a fairytale ending, believe me. It’s been a long journey. And at 70, anything can go wrong with your training, but there have been so many people cheering for me. It’s amazing, so thank you.

iRun: Did you always know you’d run Boston again?

Switzer: Never. My last Boston was 1976 and I figured that was it. After that I created the Avon Global Women’s Running Circuit. I had won New York and run a 2:51 at Boston and thought: I’m never going to get better than that. Naturally I was tempted to put a 2:41 after my name, but the 2:51 took so much work and paved the way for my next opportunity.

iRun: Tell us about that, the Avon International Running Circuit. 

Switzer: I thought it would lead to getting the marathon in the Olympic Games and it did. Avon said, ‘We love this and we love you and hired me,’ and it was a dream fulfilled, but I knew if I did this, it would require every creative and physical ability I have and I hung up the shoes, became a doctor and called 1976 my last marathon.

iRun: Marathon running is like being the Godfather. You keep trying to get out, but it keeps pulling us back in. 

Switzer: I put it behind me quite happily but, in my 60s, I was doing a signing for my second book, and women that were 65, 70, 75, kept saying, ‘You’re my inspiration! I didn’t start running until I was 65!’ I started eating my heart out. They were doing things I had helped create, but I wasn’t taking part in. I wondered if I could get it back. I wondered if I could run another marathon.  

iRun: And you did. And it was Boston. 

Switzer: I trained up and it took me two years. What I feel is: If you’re fit and you’re healthy and have an opportunity, what a privilege it is to try. My sense was incredible gratitude. How many 70-year-olds get to the starting line?  

iRun: Gratitude seems to be the best emotional to fuel not only running, but fuel a happy and healthy life. 

Switzer: Wally Bortz in particular was pioneering in his belief that our most important organ isn’t the heart or the brain, but our legs—we should keep moving into old age and live an active old-age lifestyle. It assures you quality of life. He wrote a book called We Live Too Short and Die Too Long and I’m a real believer in that. Go full bore and go off the edge of the cliff, that’s what Ed Whitlock did.

iRun: What do you mean?

Switzer: It was amazing when Ed Whitlock died, how it happened, and he was a great friend of both Roger’s and mine. He ran the marathon with prostate cancer and then he just said, it’s time.

iRun: What was it about Boston, in 1967, that you wanted to tame? 

Switzer: Here’s the point of it: in those 50 years we went from Jock trying to throw me out of the race to Boston now almost 50/50 in terms of women and men, and in Canada, it’s more women running than men—it’s practically a women’s sport!

iRun: It’s sad to remember that women couldn’t run in the Olympics until 1984. 

Switzer: The important thing is that social revolution of women’s running is that it’s a transformational experience. Running transforms women, women and men but we’re talking about women, and gives us a sense of empowerment that effects all our lives. They’re no longer trying to lose five pounds or become Olympic athletes—they’re there because it makes them feel good, makes them feel empowered. That’s why I wanted to go back to Boston, to thank the people in the streets for helping make the worst thing in my life become the best thing. Women are telling me, ‘Thanks to running, I have the courage to leave my abusive relationship’ and I want to pass the torch. I ain’t going to be around forever, these new guys have to do it, that’s what my foundation 261 Fearless is about—be fearless in the face of adversity. 

iRun: Tell us about 261 Fearless. 

Switzer: We formed a non-profit where we take this spirit of empowerment to women around the world with no opportunities. They can game this by putting one foot in front of the other. Capability is everywhere it just needs an opportunity. 261 was my bib number in 1967 Boston, and it’s been retired, by the way. 

iRun: Canadian runners like Lanni Marchant and Rachel Hannah have been vocal about touting your influence. 

Switzer: Such feisty women, I love it! I couldn’t believe Lanni Marchant took her top off! I said, ‘Oh boy, that’s fantastic!’ I love what she said—really, really strong. Nobody wants to see me do that now, but I would, believe me. This new generation, incredible. 

iRun: We’ll pass that along. Now can you please tell us about your run in 67? 

Switzer: I’ve done this a thousand times, but OK, here goes: I was reading JD Salinger at the time, so I signed my form KV Switzer, I didn’t think anything of it. There was nothing about gender written on the entry form and I wasn’t there to prove anything. (Later, race officials said I should have known it was a men’s only race, but that’s bullshit.) At first, my coach didn’t think a woman could run a marathon, but I did it in practice and he was totally blown away and he said, ‘I’m proud of you, you’re going to be really noticed now,’ and so the day of the race I wore very dishy shorts and top, I was eager to show off that I was a girl. 

iRun: What was the prevailing attitude in 1967?

Switzer: If you were a female athlete, you had to look like a guy. But it was snowy on race day and I threw on everything I could find and you couldn’t see I was a woman. The guys racing all knew and were welcoming, but the officials didn’t know. It was colder than hell but after a mile, the press truck came by and Jock Semple was getting teased by the journalists—there’s a girl in your race!—and he jumped off the bus and attacked me. He smacked my coach and was clawing at my shirt, but my boyfriend gave him a shoulder charge and he went flying through the air. My coach said, ‘Run like hell!’ So down the street I went. 

iRun: Where did you find the strength to keep on?

Switzer: I made the decision there and then: I’ll finish on my hands and knees if I have to. Anything could’ve happened. I could’ve bonked. I could’ve got diarrhea, but I made the decision and after I ran Heartbreak I realized I murdered Jock Semple every way a person could be murdered and after 20 miles, you can’t stay angry, you focus on the big issues, and there I realized other women would be here if they only had the opportunities. Don’t you get your best ideas on the run? I finished that race and had a life plan. 

iRun: Helluva story, my friend. Helluva life. 

Switzer: Jock Semple gave me a vehicle to change million of women’s lives in a powerful way and gave the women’s rights movement one of the greatest photos in history, I have gratitude for everything that’s happened to me. Everything that I’ve done.

May 4th, 2017

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2 Responses to “Kathrine Switzer on Boston, Ed Whitlock, Lanni Marchant, empowerment and the State of Women in Running”
  1. Annie Desbiens Says:

    Respect, Mme Switzer !

  2. Jane Knoll Says:

    I had the privilege of meeting both Kathrine and Lanni in Toronto when I was picking up my race kit for my very first 10K! I was so inspired by these women and I had a lovely chat with Kathrine. She said she was inspired by me running my first 10k at 63. Can you believe it? Meeting her was a moment I will never forget.

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