Mount Holyoke College hosted one of Massachusetts’s most influential female figures in competitive sports on October 17 – Kathrine Switzer. She joined students in the Gamble Auditorium to share her eye-opening story of resilience and empowerment.
In the spring of 1967, Switzer ran the Boston Marathon, an event that at the time was restricted to only men. Registering under just her initials, Switzer successfully snuck past this barrier. In the midst of running the 26.2 miles, the race director physically attacked Switzer in an attempt to remove her from the race.
Switzer’s completion of the Boston Marathon as the first female ever despite this incident became a national event that changed the perception of females in sports forever.
“I started that race as a woman and I finished as a woman,” said Switzer. Her presentation at Mount Holyoke College utilized her outstanding feat as an example of how resilience can defeat even the most considerable challenges.
In promoting this idea of resilience, Kathrine Switzer emphasized the significance of empowerment. Her own personal empowerment initially sourced from her younger years, when she would cross-train to prepare herself to play on field hockey team during high school.
“I ran a mile every day to train,” said Switzer. “I became so empowered from running that one mile a day. I felt I had a victory in my belt every day, that nobody could take away from me.”
Switzer preached the importance of this empowerment, which she believes can help guide any person reach their ultimate goals.
“I think we all owe it to ourselves, once in our lives, to push ourselves to our limits,” explained Switzer. “You can do much more than you believe, you just need an opportunity.”
After running her initial marathon in 1967, Switzer continued pursuing athletics both as a competitor and an advocate. In addition to running 39 marathons total, Switzer devoted much of her time to promoting women in professional athletics.
“There should be no limitations on women whatsoever, but there are,” said Switzer. Switzer has helped to successfully plan a number of marathons across the globe that accepted women runners.
In 1986, the women’s marathon was voted as an official event into the Olympics, an accomplishment for the world of female sports. “This was the physical acceptance of women,” said Switzer, whose contributions helped to accomplish this feat.
“The revolution of course is not over. Piece by piece, we are using our resilience to crash through social barriers,” Switzer added.
In doing so, Switzer promoted another positive philosophy: resilience.
“Don’t quit,” Switzer said. “The more you do the more you can do. If it’s negative, it’s a positive because you can change it.”
Switzer shared her inspiration in times of negativity, promoting resilience at any challenge whatsoever. “When something inevitable happens, you owe it to yourself to make your life positive.”
Katrina Borofski can be reached at [email protected]