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Women and the Boston race

/ 08:47 AM April 17, 2012

This year’s edition of the Boston Marathon marks the 40th year since women were officially allowed to join the world’s oldest annual marathon in 1972. Today, women comprise 43 percent the Boston marathon entrants. For today’s crop of female runners it must be hard to imagine how women had to fight and lobby for a place in the marathon starting line.

The first woman to ever run the Boston was Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb but she was a bandit runner. The first officially registered female runner to ever run Boston, or any marathon for that matter is Kathryn V. Switzer in 1967, but only because her entry form only reflected her initals – KV Switzer and race officials had unwittingly registered a man.

At mile 4 or between KM 6 and 7, race director Jock Semple discovered that KV Switzer was a woman and tried to forcibly remove Kathryn Switzer from the race and rip her bib number from her sweat shirt if not for her then running coach and boyfriend who protected her from Semple’s attack. Kathryn went on to cross the finishline in 4 hours 20 minutes.


Women were officially allowed to run Boston in 1972, but only after much lobbying from Switzer and her fellow pioneers in the women’s marathon Nina Kuscsik and Sara Rae Berman. In their first year as official entrants, women had the same qualifying standard as the men which is 3:30. The first female winner of the Boston Marathon was Nina Kuscsik who crossed the finishline in 3:10:26.

It would take another 12 years of intense lobbying before women marathoners were allowed to compete in the Olympics. In 1984, marathon legend American Joan Benoit Samuelson became the first gold medal winner of the women’s marathon at the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles with a time of 2:24:52. The silver went to the late great Grete Waitz of Norway who also won the New York City Marathon 9 times while bronze went to Rosa Mota of Portugal.

Boston Marathon Fun Facts

We all know that a Boston Qualifier is the serious marathoner’s holy grail with at least 25,000 runners coming for all corners of the world. But did you know that when it started in 1897, a year after the modern-day marathon was introduced in the Summer Olympics, the Boston Marathon only had 15 entrants and that the winner of the second Boston Marathon in 1898 was a man named Ronald Mac Donald?

Here are some interesting trivia and fun facts about the Boston Marathon as compiled by CBS News in Boston.

* John J. McDermott won the first Boston Marathon in 1897 in a time of 2:55:10

* Prize money was first awarded at the Boston Marathon in 1986

* The total prize money package for the Boston Marathon is $806,000


* In Men’s and Women’s divisions, the champions each win a gold medal, a laurel wreath, and $150,000.

* Since 1969, the Boston Marathon has always been run on Patriots’ Day, the third Monday in April

* About 500,000 spectators line the marathon route each year

* 1966: Roberta Gibb became the first woman to unofficially run the Boston Marathon

* 1967: Katherine Switzer became first woman to receive official number, by using her initials to register

* 1972: Women were first allowed to officially enter the Boston Marathon

* The largest field of runners was for the 100th Boston Marathon in 1996, when 36,748 runners started the marathon

* Ten hospitals along the route bulk up their staffs on race day. And for good reason: around 900 runners get treated for injuries and exhaustion every year. But in the history of the race, only two runners have died.

* 1975: Boston became the first marathon to include a wheelchair division

* Cuba almost had its first champion in 1980, when Rosie Ruiz was the first woman to cross the finish line. Almost for one simple reason: officials discovered Ruiz had merely jumped into the course near the finish line.

* Comedian Will Ferrell ran the Boston Marathon in 3:56:12. Mario Lopez was far slower at 5:41:41. Fastest time set by a non-runner celebrity? Lance Armstrong at 2:50:58.

* Water and Gatorade are provided every mile of the course; PowerGel is provided at mile 17

* Four tons of pasta and 500 gallons of tomato sauce are cooked for the pre-race meal

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TAGS: Boston Marathon, Marathon, Women
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