Cautionary Tales – Run, Switzer, Run: The Women Who Broke the Marathon Taboo

5th July, 2024

Until the 1960s, women couldn’t compete in Olympic events any longer than a sprint – and commentators declared that a marathon would kill them, or leave them unable to have children. Rubbish, of course. But when Kathrine Switzer signed up for the 1967 Boston Marathon, it wasn’t the distance that bothered her – it was the enraged race officials trying to assault her.   

Thanks to pioneers like Kathrine, women have made huge strides in long distance running – and are now challenging the times of men in the very races they were banned from for so long.  

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Further reading

On Bobbi Gibb

Ailsa Ross, “The Woman Who Crashed the Boston MarathonJSTOR Daily 18 March 2013

Olivier Guiberteau, “Bobbi Gibb: The Boston Marathon pioneer who raced a lie” BBC Sport 29 August 2023

Brigit Katz “The incredible story of Bobbi Gibb, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon” Women in the World, New York Times, 20 April 2015

On Kathrine Switzer

Kathrine Switzer “The Girl Who Started It AllRunners World – excerpt from Kathrine Switzer Marathon Woman;

The Spirit of the Marathon by Gail Waesche Kislevitz Breakaway Books, 2002

I ran with the men and changed history” BBC Outlook

On The Spine Race

Nick Van Mead “Montane Spine Race: 268 miles of pain

Dave Lee “Spine Race 2013

“Spine” (Amazon Prime documentary)

Jasmin Paris “Spine Race

Episode 6 – Spine Race 2019

BBC Sport

BBC Scotland

Other sources

Roger Robinson “Eleven Wretched Women” – What really happened in the first Olympic women’s 800m. Runner’s World 14 May 2012 

Colleen English Not a Very Edifying Spectacle”: The Controversial Women’s 800-Meter Race in the 1928 Olympics 08 October 2015

A Marathon Legend Revisited

Natalie Angier “2 Experts Say Women Who Run May Overtake Men” The New York Times 7 January 1992

Run Repeat State of Ultra-running

BBC More or Less

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