Kathrine Switzer was in the habit of signing her college papers “K.V. Switzer” and did so when she registered for the all-male Boston Marathon in 1967. She wasn’t the first woman to run the race, but her presence as an official entrant made her a visible and potent threat to the sports world’s status quo. The simple gesture exploded when an official attacked Switzer on the course, grabbing for her race numbers and screaming and cursing at her before being body blocked by her boyfriend.
The incident was broadcasted worldwide and put a shocking face on the hostility to women’s full participation in athletics. Time-Life listed it among its “100 Photographs that Changed the World.” Switzer was radicalized by the incident. Her 38 subsequent marathons (she’s still running them) include a win in New York in 1974. She led the successful drive to get the women’s race into the Olympic Games, has won an Emmy for her TV commentary, and is the author of three books, including her memoir, Marathon Woman. Switzer’s ongoing campaign to help women around the globe empower themselves through the simple act of running made her a 2011 Inductee into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.