I remember the very first time I heard Kathrine Switzer’s name. I was a freshman in college, and she was assigned to me as the subject of my very first college research paper. So I bought her memoir from Amazon, and I started reading.
For those of you who don’t know her name, she was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, back when women weren’t allowed to register. The race director attempted to drag her off the course, but he was shoved over by Switzer’s then-boyfriend. Switzer started a movement in running. She showed women that they were just as capable as men.
Back then, when I was reading her memoir, running was something I only did as a punishment. I hated it. I had played high school sports, and running was something that was used to keep us in line, to condition us, to make us better. It wasn’t enjoyable. So, reading about this woman, this crazy lady who wanted to run a marathon when women just simply weren’t doing that – it was weird. I wasn’t sure what to make of her.
But then I started running. And suddenly, she became someone I looked up to, an icon of sorts.
And last October, on the eve of my first half marathon, I met her.
Ms. Switzer was giving the keynote speech at the expo on the evening before the races. I made a special trip, even though no one would go with me, just so I could hear her speak. She was inspirational, that’s for sure. I wanted to be her. It was then that I decided to register for my first marathon. It was her.
Well, we all know how that “first marathon” experience went for me (ugh), but I still look up to her, and I know that I’ll one day run my own marathon. And hopefully Boston, too. Because dreaming big is the only way I know how to do it.