Kathrine Switzer, in 1967, became the first woman to enter and run the Boston Marathon. The press took pictures as a race official tried to forcibly remove her from the race.
(She did finish.)
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"AMY GOODMAN: The year was 1967.
MERYL STREEP: The 1967 Boston Marathon was run in some of the worst conditions in race history. While most of the crowd was focused on the front of the pack, another runner was making a stir far behind.
KATHRINE SWITZER: The idea of running long distance was always considered very questionable for women, because, you know, an arduous activity would mean that you’re going to get big legs and grow a mustache and hair on your chest, and your uterus was going to fall out.
MERYL STREEP: In 1967, Kathrine Switzer was a junior at Syracuse University. Because Syracuse had no women’s track team, she began training with the manager of the men’s team, a part-time mailman named Arnie Briggs.
KATHRINE SWITZER: It was Arnie who told me about the greatest day in his life every year, which was the Boston Marathon. And we were out running, and Arnie began telling me another Boston Marathon story. And I said, "Oh, Arnie, let’s just quit talking about the darn marathon and run it." And my dream then became to prove that I could run 26 miles, 385 yards.
MERYL STREEP: For 70 years, the Boston Marathon had excluded women. But Switzer entered using just her initials.
KATHRINE SWITZER: We walked to the start, and the gun went off, and down the street we went. So there we were, Arnie Briggs, the 50-year-old mailman, and me, the 20-year-old college student, and my boyfriend, Tom Miller, an ex-All-America football player. When other runners would come by, they would say, "Oh, it’s a girl!" and they were so excited.
And all of a sudden, the press truck is in front of us, and they’re taking, you know, pictures of us. On this truck was the race director, a feisty guy by the name of Jock Semple. He just stopped the bus, jumped off and ran after me. And he just grabbed me and screamed at me: "Get the hell out of my race, and give me those numbers!" He had the fiercest face of any guy I had ever seen. And all of a sudden, Big Tom, my boyfriend, came with a streak and gave Jock the most incredible cross body block and sent Jock flying right through the air and landed on the curb. And all of this happened in front of the press truck. The journalists got very aggressive: "What are you trying to prove?" You know, "Are you a suffragette? Are you a crusader?" whatever that is, you know. And I said, "What? I’m just trying to run."
Then it got very quiet. Snow is coming down. Nobody is saying anything. And I turned to Arnie, and I said, "Arnie, I’m going to finish this race on my hands and my knees if I have to. If I don’t finish this race, then everybody is going to believe women can’t do it. I’ve got to finish this race." I finished that race in four hours, 20 minutes.
It wasn’t until we stopped on the thruway to get an ice cream and some coffee that we see the newspapers and the coverage, front and back, of all the different editions with the pictures. And I realized that now this was very, very important, and this was going to change my life, and it was probably going to change women’s sports. There is an expression in a marathon that you do go through sort of a lifetime of experience. And I often say that I started the Boston Marathon as a girl, and I finished the Boston Marathon as a grown woman., at one point, wrote a memo to her boss at NBC News as the women’s movement was heating up, and she said, "Hey, let’s do a story on the women’s—how about doing a story on the women’s movement?" Her memo came back to her: "Not enough interest." I mean, there’s example after example in the documentary of the kind of dismissive tone and coverage of the movement. I don’t think that the media really understood what was going on in the mid to late ’60s with women from all walks of life who were kind of fed up with the restrictions that they were facing...."