It is hard to think that within my life there was a time when women were essentially forbidden to run a marathon – yet the image above is one of those magical moments caught on film. It shows 20-year old Kathrine Switzer as the first officially entered woman in the Boston Marathon (Roberta Gibb ran as a renegade the year before). And the image shows marathon organizer Jock Semple chasing Switzer and attacking her, reportedly shouting “Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers.”
The image also shows a number of men helping Switzer hold off Semple at the start, and they and others helped keep her safe throughout the race. As she notes, the other runners were never the problem:
You have to understand that when I ran, men had always really welcomed me. I mean, the runners. Not necessarily the spectators or certainly not officials. But certainly the runners were always very new-age guys. When I got to Boston, all the guys were running around and warming up.
Jock Semple was the guy who attacked me and he was actually a very, very angry guy. He had come from a tough background and running and the marathon and Boston, in particular, had saved him from despair and poverty and the depression. He came to be in charge of the Boston Marathon and he came to be very protective of it. He regarded me as the lunatic fringe, somebody who was making a joke of his race. A lot of clowns used to do that in the Boston Marathon and it used to make him very angry. He was a feisty guy, so he would punch them. And so, just because I was a girl, he was going to punch me, too. He insisted that the AAU [Amateur Athletic Union] rules forbid women from running any distance of over a mile and a half and also of running with men. The marathon rules never said anything about gender and certainly on the entrance form it never said anything about gender. We went through all this, we checked all the rules, we did all our paperwork. Afterwards, he had me expelled from the Amateur Athletic Union for running without a chaperone, running with men and running more than a mile and a half.
Here is an interview from a few years ago where Switzer talks about the race:
And there is a more detailed portrait of Kathrine Switzer on PBS.