Melbourne Podiatry Clinic

Inspiring Story Of The First Female Marathon Runner

Did you know that women weren’t allowed to run in marathons? In 1967 Katherine Switzer was the first female to run and compete in a marathon. At the time it was believed that women weren’t strong enough or even had the endurance to complete a marathon. Switzer, at the age of 20 was the only female in her college running club and made it her mission to prove women are not only capable of running a marathon but are well suited to the event. 

Switzer and women, in general, were not encouraged to run at this time. She was warned by doctors that it was dangerous for her to be running, she recalls comments such as “You’re going to get big legs”, “You’ll never be able to have children”, “You’re going to grow hair on your chest”, just some of the misconceptions at the time. Nevertheless, she ran because it made her feel fit, strong and empowered. 

The morning of the event, Switzer collected her bid number 261 at the Boston Marathon which had been an all-male sport for 70 years. Above are the scenes of the event organizer trying to take the bid off her in protest of having a woman enrolled in the event. Switzer knew she now had something to prove and finished the marathon in 4 hours and 20 minutes. 

Five years later women were allowed to compete in the marathon. With the help and determination of Switzer, the women’s marathon became an official event in the 1984 Olympics in LA.  Amazingly, women have only been competing in Marathons for 50 years. It is believed that women are more suited to the sport due to the higher level of fat stores we have. 

261, Switzer’s race number has become an icon in women’s sport. Switzer began a 261 fearless running club to connect and empower female runners globally – click here.

As podiatrists, we can help assess your running gait, and strength and program your running program. You may not realise but women are not simply “smaller men” and there are differences in the training advice, strength programs and load tolerance that need to be considered. 

Whether your goal is to feel fitter and empowered or if you want to take on a marathon we can assist you at Melbourne Podiatry Clinic!


Written by Maddie Ferrie from Melbourne Podiatry Clinic 


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