Kathrine Switzer was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. Amazing as it seems today, Switzer’s feat was controversial in 1967, when no woman had yet run the race. Switzer signed up as K.V. Switzer–not as forthcoming as some officials would have liked!–and was given a spot in the race. She was 20-years-old and as she ran she was chased down by a race official who tried to tear off her race bib and stop her from running. It didn’t work, but the absurdity of the scene made a huge impression.
Five years later women were admitted to the Boston Marathon. Switzer immediately embraced the role of pioneer and women’s rights activist–a role she fills admirably to this day–in addition to being a world class runner. In 1974 Switzer won the New York City Marathon in 100-degere heat. The 2015 Boston Marathon–the hardest in the country to qualify for–featured 13,374 women.