I lined up for my first marathon in London in 2013, nervous but excited. I was well prepared and I was confident I could finish. I was very well aware however that my journey to the start line did not begin at week 1 on my training plan 16 weeks previously. No, it began in 1967 when a lady called Kathrine Switzer shivered on the start line in Boston in her baggy grey tracksuit.
Kathrine had the courage to train and enter a marathon, a feat that was felt impossible for women back then (and it’s not that long ago!). She had entered as KV Switzer on her registration form because that’s how she always signed her name. The tracksuit, competitors and sleety rain hid her feminine form and lipstick. When the race director discovered that a woman had entered his race he did his best to eject her, chasing her, pulling at her race number 261 and shouting “Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers”. Thankfully Kathrine’s boyfriend at the time, a rather chunky football player, body blocked him and Kathrine was able to run on.
Despite being scared and shaken she fearlessly continued knowing she had no alternative but to finish and show that women were entirely capable of such challenges. Despite the weight of that responsibility on her shoulders she did indeed cross the finish line victorious.
Kathrine has become a life long advocate and activist for women in sport. She campaigned for the women’s marathon to be part of the olympics. It was finally introduced in 1984 andJoan Benoit Samuelson took the gold medal.
The number she wore that day 261 has become a statement in itself. It means I will not be beaten, I can do this, I am fearless. Anyone who has made their own running journey will know the sense of empowerment that running gives you and the knowledge that if you can run a marathon you can do anything. Sadly there are many women who feel powerless, beaten and full of fear. A new 261 global network has been launched to help women run and to get running to help them. Every woman should have the opportunity to experience this sport no matter what their background, race or religion.
You can become part of this network, running yourself and helping others to run. Kathrine has said she will keep us posted on ways we can be involved but for now why not come along to the 261 Women’s Marathon and 10k in Mallorca on 8th March 2015, International Women’s Day? www.261wm.com The power of running combined with the fearlessness of women will be on display for all to see, hear and feel.
I can’t wait to be part of this celebration and I’m proud that I will be running the marathon to raise money for a charity in London called ‘A Mile In Her Shoes’. They empower women at risk of homelessness by kitting them out and taking them running. I can’t think of a better way to help these women. Show them how much they can achieve, raise their self esteem and make them fearless. http://www.amileinhershoes.org.uk
So, my first marathon journey took 46 years and I’m so grateful to Kathrine and the women warriors of that era who made it possible for me to run. I sense however the bigger journey is just beginning…..