April 19, 1967 Woman Uses Chicanery to Register in All Male Boston Marathon

“Get the hell out of my race and give me that number.”- Jock Semple, Boston Marathon race director as he tried to run down Kathrine Switzer in 1967 to rip off her official number.

In 1967, Kathrine Switzer became the first women to enter and run the Boston Marathon. For several years, another woman, Roberta Gibb, ran in the race, but did not dare register, not that she could. Women were not allowed to run in any marathons until 1972. I assume it was either unladylike or considered physically impossible for women to accomplish. K. Switzer obviously knew better. She registered only as K. Switzer and had a male friend pick up her number.

Photo credit: Harry Trask for AP Images

Either Jock Semple, Boston Marathon race director, saw Switzer as he rode in the race truck or he was contacted over a walkie-talkie of Switzer’s breach, in any event, the number on Switzer’s back was unacceptable . He jumped from the truck and chased her down, trying to pull the number off her back. Switzer’s boyfriend knocked him down, a scene captured by AP Photographer Harry Trask. Switzer and her boyfriend finished the race.

The following year, Semple was interviewed in Sports Illustrated April 22, 1968. The article quoted him to mimic his dialect, “I’m not o’poozed t’ women’s athletics,” says Jock, whose burr remains almost as thick as it was the day in 1923 when he left Clydebank for America. Indeed, he has donated trophies to women’s races. “But we’re taught t’ respect laws—t’ respect rules. The amateur rules here say a woman can’t run more th’n a mile and a half. I’m in favor of makin’ their races longer, but they doon’t belong with men. They doon’t belong runnin’ with Jim Ryun. You wouldn’t like to see a woman runnin’ with Jim Ryun, wouldya?”

The Associated Press photo was seen around the world. And yet, it would take another FIVE years to officially allow women to participate. Today, more than 40 percent of the runners are women.