Boston Marathon's first female runner continues to blaze a trail

  • Kathrine Switzer, who was the first official woman entrant in the Boston Marathon 50 years ago, wears the same bib number and displays her medal after finishing the 121st Boston Marathon in April 2017.

    Kathrine Switzer, who was the first official woman entrant in the Boston Marathon 50 years ago, wears the same bib number and displays her medal after finishing the 121st Boston Marathon in April 2017. Associated Press

Updated 7/26/2019 6:28 PM

It's been more than 50 years since Kathrine Switzer broke barriers (and rules) to become the first woman to run the Boston Marathon.

"There were people who told me that I was their Joan of Arc," Switzer said of the flood of feedback she got after the fact. "And there were others who said that I was going to burn in hell for it."


Now 72, Switzer is still running, and still pushing the envelope. For others.

A few years ago, Switzer created 261 Fearless, an organization that is out to empower women through the creation of local running clubs, education programs, communication platforms and social running events. 261 was the number on Switzer's bib in that infamous 1967 Boston Marathon when she dropped the running community on its head with her defiance to run the race in spite of the fact that women weren't allowed to run marathons at that time, mostly because they were deemed to be "too fragile."

The still spunky Switzer was in the area last weekend as part of the Humana Rock 'n Roll Challenge. The half marathon in downtown Chicago was just one of the activities that 261 Fearless took part in while headquartered at McCormick Place to promote the benefits, not only physical, but also mental and psychological, of running for women.

Switzer still runs for no less than an hour a day, or 25 to 30 miles a week. She'll run at least one marathon a year and dozens of 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons and trail races.

"I want women to understand that it is never too late to start a fitness program," Switzer said. "We want 261 to make them feel fearless about doing it. We want them to take the first step with us.

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"I remember being nervous and insecure when I first started running. But as I kept doing it, I felt empowered as I ran. I want every woman I know to feel this way. And I really think that 261 Fearless can empower women even beyond running."

According to its website, 261 Fearless wants to create a sisterhood to women all over the world, allowing "fearless women to pass strength gained from running onto women who are facing challenges and, hence, sparking a revolution of empowerment."

Switzer not only talks the talk, she walks the walk. Or in her case, runs it. She believes she is a walking billboard for how running and a fit lifestyle can help women age gracefully and powerfully.

Besides maintaining her aggressive workout regimen, she is a writer, public speaker and active in 261 Fearless.

"I run at my age to break stress. This is when I can get my head together and get my ideas right," Switzer said. "Anyone can do it. I just tell women, put your shoes at the door, and do a little at a time each day. Start with walking. Then maybe you jog and run a little. It will feel good.


"When I come back from a run, I always come back happy and refreshed."

For information about the group, visit

All in the family: Chicago Sky players Allie Quigley, Courtney Vandersloot and Diamond DeShields will play in Saturday's WNBA All-Star Game (2:30 p.m., ABC) at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

The Sky and the Las Vegas Aces are the only teams with three players in the game.

Even more impressive than the Sky's strong presence as all-stars is the Sky's strong support system.

It has been reported by Sky players that at least six and maybe all remaining nine players are planning to attend the game as a show of support.

"I think that says a lot about this group that we have," Vandersloot said. "I feel like I wouldn't be an all-star without (the rest of the team), so I'm glad they're coming so I get to share that with them."

Vandersloot was selected by captain and former Sky star Elena Delle Donne of the Washington Mystics to be on Team Delle Donne. Quigley and DeShields were selected by captain A'ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces to be on Team Wilson.

Ex-Sky players in the game are Sylvia Fowles of the Minnesota Lynx, Candice Dupree of the Indiana Fever and Kristi Toliver of the Washington Mystics.

Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

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