For those of you not living in Boston, today is “Marathon Day” — the day runners from around the world gather in Boston to run the Boston Marathon. It’s also a local holiday, so Hanna and I had a three-day weekend (hooray!). We have beautiful weather here: sunny and in the 40s. As Hanna and I were walking down to our favorite coffee & brioche bakery this morning, the Boston Police were blocking off the streets and trucks were delivering bags of ice and cases of bottled water.
This past weekend, one of our local NPR affiliates, WBUR, broadcast an interview with the first woman ever to officially register and run in the Boston Marathon, in 1967: Kathrine Switzer (click through for audio). Her running coach scoffed at the idea when she first brought up the possibility, but when she ran thirty miles with him in training he was forced to think again. They registered her by initial only (women weren’t officially allowed to race in the marathon until 1972) and she completed the race despite the fact that she was heckled verbally by officials and one man completely lost it and tried to rip her number off her back.
My mom ran a marathon in Chicago back in the 1970s. She also ran regularly for exercise when she was pregnant with me. The people who saw her jogging on the track harassed her about endangering my health, and she remembers Runner’s World magazine publishing letters to the editor by men complaining that women’s sweat was unattractive. Today, more than 11,000 women are participating in the marathon at all levels of skill … and I for one am grateful we live in a time and place where this is no longer viewed as remarkable or repugnant.