In 1967, Kathrine Switzer made history by becoming the first official woman to run the Boston Marathon.
The Boston Marathon is seen as the ultimate race that many marathon runners aspire to achieve and conquer. As though the race wasn't tough enough already, Kathrine was attacked by an angry race official who was so distraught that a woman was running "his" race. Shaken by the incident (captured in a historic photograph seen above), she nevertheless went on to not only crossing the finish line, but becoming a historical figure around the world for sports equality. Kathrine was a driving force in making the Women's Marathon an Olympic event.
You can check out Kathrine, her story, and what she's up to now here.
Kathrine, so awesome to see you.
Great to be here. I'm happy to join your show. It's wonderful.
Thanks so much. I want to just zoom back to '67 and get into that milieu and that context, because I recently ran the San Francisco half marathon. I was just looking into some of the statistics, the data today, around half and half are men and women participating. Just anecdotally I know a lot more women that ran the half marathon than men. It seems in that metric the world has changed a lot in the last 40/50 years. Then you also have the context of Me Too, a lot of things happening in the news today. It seems like the world hasn't really changed that much. Curious to go back in time and get a sense of what was your mindset as you decided to sign up as KV and run the marathon in Boston?
Let's put a few things into perspective with what you started with, which is first of all 58% of all the runners in the United States now are women. Let's do the Boston Marathon where people have to qualify for the most part. 51 years ago there was only one woman with a bib in the race. Now, there are 13,000 women with a bib. When you look at the New York City Marathon, of the 50,000 people in the race, something like 22,000 of them are women. What this means is nothing short of a social revolution. Who would ever have predicted that? I would have predicted always that women's running would be as popular and publicizable as men's. I wasn't sure the sport was going to grow to this enormity. It's growing not just because people want to be elite athletes. They don't for the most part. Most people who are out there running are running for a sense of stress bust, self-esteem, empowerment, control over their lives. It's an amazing thing that that has happened.
Okay, now let's jump ahead. You said in this era of Me Too and sexual contentiousness and divisiveness. As you said, it seems like things are going backwards. No. Things are going incredibly fast forward. Those things have always existed and women didn't talk about it. We thought it was what we had to put up with. Now, women are incandescent.
Running is one thing that actually has given all of us, men and women, courage and bravado and a limited amount of patience...because we want to keep things moving on.
What is really terrific is that our sport really stands as a beacon in this era of contentiousness and Me Tooism, because we don't care about gender. We don't care about what your income is or what race you are, or where you're from. We're in a race together, we're runners. I made a speech at my university. I actually was a commencement speaker at Syracuse University this year.
I said the guy on my left is a different race, from a different country, and speaks a different language. I don't know the orientation of the woman on my right. I said, "And we don't care. When we finish this race, we're going to hug each other sweaty and stinky, and it has nothing to do with sex or violence." I think we have a lot to pat ourselves on the back for, because I think the whole world could look at our example of inclusion and non-judgmentalism and use that as a beacon for the future. Certainly that is a huge change in the world, because where else even 50 years ago? Running always has welcomed me and women. The men in the Boston Marathon in 1967 weren't attacking me. The men in the Boston Marathon in 1967 to a man were kind, welcoming, motivational. It was the officials, some spectators, and stodgy old rule keepers who had a tough time with me being a woman. I knew even then that they were just products of their time, that this would change. It's been, quite frankly in terms of my life, a lot of work. I spent my whole life trying to push for women's equality in the sport. It's been a pleasure and a joy, and it goes on in many other aspects even today with the creation of a non-profit right now that reaches out to women everywhere and tries to include them. From what you said at the beginning, I just wanted to sum that up.
It helps, definitely.
There's been a huge change in 51 years. As I said, a social revolution. Now that we've patted ourselves on the back, do you want to go back to that cold, snowy, freezing day in 1967?
Is that what you ...?
I think it just help sets the context and frame in the sense that you've really built a career and life around the decision [inaudible 00:06:13] you made when you were in your late teens, 20. Did you know it's going to be such a historical moment? You couldn't have predicted, it sounds like, ...
...that all this social change since '67. I'm just curious to get in the mindset of you when you were 19/20, when you were looking at planning this, entering the race. How thoughtful were you with that process? Was it just, "Okay, I wanted to compete. I'm good. I'm going to enter and see what happens"?
Well, first you got to understand that I started running when I was 12 because I wanted to make the field hockey team in my high school, and I was a pretty nervous, insecure, skinny kid. My dad was the one who encouraged me to run. He said if I ran a mile a day I'd be a really good player and I'd make the field hockey team. What happened is, yes, I did make the field hockey team. I played other sports, but the more important thing is that the mile a day gave me this enormous sense of victory and empowerment. Here I was this skinny little kid in a big high school, and I was 12 and they were 18, and yet I ran a mile a day and I felt, "I've got a victory under my belt nobody can take away from me." This was a very, very cool and great way for a young girl to grow up in the 60s. When I got to Syracuse University I was pretty tough, and there were no women's sports at Syracuse University in those days, if you can imagine that. You think of this powerhouse university now with sports everywhere.
There's something like 25 sports for men and they all had scholarships, and the women didn't have anything. We had play days. Anyway, I was running, and so I asked the men's track coach if I could run on the men's team, and he said not officially but he would welcome me if I came out to train with the team. The team would welcome me too, thinking I'd never show up. Well, I did show up, and one of the assistant coaches who was a volunteer coach, an older guy, he was 50, welcomed me hugely. He said, "I've been out here for 30 years helping this team and they'd never had a girl before." His name was Arnie Briggs and he was actually the university mailman and had been a marathon runner for most of his life, and had run the Boston Marathon 15 times. Essentially he took me under his wing and ran with me slowly every day. I built my mileage up from three miles a day up to seven, to eight, nine, ten miles.
Then one night he told me another Boston Marathon story and I told him I'd always wanted to run the Boston Marathon, and I knew I could do it. He didn't believe any woman could do it. We had this argument, and when I proved to him in practice that I could do it, he promised to take me to the Boston Marathon because he was so impressed and so moved by my determination, because I trained very, very, very hard. In fact, the day we were going to do our 26 miles together in training, I said, "Let's do another five miles." When we finished the workout, I said, "Let's do another five miles. I want to make sure when we go to Boston nothing can stop us." It was kind of a prescient thing to say. He said, "Can you do another five miles?" I said, "Sure. Can't you?" He said, "Well, I don't know. Yeah. I guess." He passed out at the end of the workout. We'd done 31 miles.
I was totally confident about Boston. I was a little nervous about how the guys would think about me, but Arnie said, "No. No. All the guys all really love you on the team. They're very motivational. You have to officially sign up. This is really serious. It's a serious race." We checked the rule books. There was nothing about gender in the rule books and nothing on the entry form. When people say, "Oh, she knew all along it was a men's-only race," that's not true, because a woman actually ran the Boston Marathon the year before I did. Roberta Gibb jumped out of the bushes and ran the race. Now, she didn't wear a number but she ran the race. I figured, "Okay, well, it's done before. This is nothing new." Arnie said, "You just don't go into a big race like Boston without paying an entry fee and signing up, and there's nothing in the rule book that says you can't." I signed the entry form, but of course I signed it with my initials, because that's how I sign my name. When the entry form went in the officials thought it was from a guy. KV Switzer was Kurt, Kerry or Kim, but not Kathrine.
Then the rest were a series of coincidences. It was snowing and sleeting. I was in a baggy warmup suit. From a distance I looked like one of the guys. Everybody was in baggy, gray warmup suits and plastic wind jackets, had stocking caps on their head and gloves. It was freezing, freezing, sleeting and snowing.
When we got into the starting pen together, the guys were wonderful and motivational, saying things like, "I wish my wife would run. Would you give me some tips to get her started?"
We were like we always are. The gun went off, down the street we went and we were running together, and then you know what happened. The press truck came by and they went crazy seeing a girl in the race. When the official's bus went by, the race director lost his temper seeing a girl in his race, jumped off the bus, and ran after me, attacked me, and screamed, "Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers," and tried to rip my bib numbers off.
They were these numbers right here, 261. My boyfriend decked him, sent him out of the race instead, and I went on to finish. You see, the whole thing happened in front of the press truck, so the photographs from this have been flashed around the world again, and again, and again. They're going hot on the internet. I think USA Today just yesterday had a big piece in Humankind, because the story is really quite ageless. You can tell it in a funny way, like a girlfriend saved by boyfriend in Boston Marathon, or you can say girl barges into Boston Marathon and changes everything in the world for women, or you can just say, "Isn't that terrible. This girl is trying to run and she's getting attacked by officials." It's all of those stories. The most amazing thing is we have the photographs and video of it, because the idiot race director did in front of the press truck.
Then did you expect that kind of reaction? It sounds like you knew you could do it, you signed up, you were in Boston and you ran the race, and then people were attacking you and you wanted to finish. Then did you expect the press outcry and then all of that afterwards, or was that an expectation coming into it?
No. I wasn't expecting anything negative in the race. The guys were welcoming. When the gun went off, down the street we went. I expected, as always, somebody in the crowd to shout something mean to me, and I can remember distinctly one guy doing so somewhere along Wellesley. He came out in the street and he shouted at me, "You should be home making dinner for your husband in the kitchen." What?
You should come and run with me, and I'll beat you to the finish line, right?
Yeah, but no. I often say, "I was just a girl who wanted to run." That's all I was doing, and the marathon was the big allure. Boston was the biggest, greatest, most exciting race on the planet and I wanted to be there. I knew I could do it. I was proud of being a woman. I wasn't trying to prove anything. After the official attacked me, then I had to prove something. Then I had to finish no matter what. That's when everything changed. I really then bore down. It wasn't fun anymore. It was a matter of you're going to finish this race. Having said that, there's some pictures of me laughing in the race with my teammates. We thought that the race director was just some crazy guy, that it would all blow over, it was no big deal. He was just a product of his time. The reality is that as I ran along, and we all do this when we're running, you get to thinking about what's happened and why things have happened, or a situation, or you have a problem, or you're trying to write a story or a term paper and waiting for the idea to percolate up.
I realized, I stopped being angry with him when I went over Heartbreak Hill, because by that time you can't stay angry with anybody. You can't run a marathon and stay mad, that's for sure. I realized he was just a product of his time, and then I was wondering, "Well, why aren't there other women here?" Then it really dawned on me that they weren't there because they were afraid to run. They were afraid to do anything that took them into a different place that wasn't their domain, and they had never had an opportunity to do something that tested their fearlessness. I said, "They're afraid, that's why they're not here." If I could create something for them, a non-intimidating wonderful event, I know they're going to come, and I know we can change the sport if we can give them those opportunities. I didn't know what it was going to look like, but I knew I was going to do it.
While you were in the race you were already perceiving the historical context of essentially being a role model for other women. This is like during the race as you were just two/three hours in. You were percolating these ideas.
Yeah. I'm percolating these ideas, but don't forget there's also a wave of paranoia going on here now too, because this official was so out of control, I was really convinced he had told the police to pull me from the race some other place where nobody was looking. Every time we went around a corner and there was another big cop standing in the intersection, I would kind of hide behind Arnie my coach, a little bit, and I said, "Oh my God. Is this guy going to pull us from the race?" They didn't. I read in the newspaper many years later that the race director had gone ahead and asked them to pull me out of the race. The police said, "No. No. We're staying out of this." It was amazing how angry people could be over such a simple thing, in a way a lovely thing. Who cares if a woman's running? I mean she's not in anybody's way, and all the guys didn't mind.
I think these are powerful symbols, and being a role model, I think, just opens up people's perspective on what is possible. I think clearly it was a historical moment. One of the questions from our audience they wanted me to ask was what makes a good role model? It sounds like you didn't come in trying to run the Boston Marathon to be a role model. It was something that you as a girl wanted to run, you thought you could do it. You wanted to just do it, and it's almost as a way to prove it to yourself and your peers. I guess haphazardly or just put yourself into the spot of being a role model. Did you have role models in running, either athletes, men or women? What does it mean to you to be a role model with young women coming up today?
Well, you know, it's interesting, as you were getting ready to ask that question I was going to interrupt and say, you said that here you were running and being a role model, and I was going to interrupt you and say, and as it turns out that's the question you asked, "What does it take to be a role model?" I was going to say everybody listening or watching, everybody in life has the opportunity to be a role model. Social injustice is everywhere, and every time you walk by social injustice and go the other way and cop out of doing something, in my view you take another drop of bitterness into your life.
I'm not saying that we all can change the world. I'm saying that we can always do something for some other situation that makes it better.
It may be just a kid on the street who looks a little hangdog and you just need to say, "Hey, attaboy, attagirl. You can do it. Come on." Instead of putting a kid down, give them a sense of empowerment as they're growing up. It's very easy to be positive, and just as easy to be positive to somebody as to be negative to somebody. Give them every shot. I mean there's where social injustice begins. Start at home with your own kids, and your neighbor's kids, and just do a little something here and there. We're in a difficult time right now, and people need to really speak up and stand out for what they believe in. Certainly, as a role model you cannot change the world. In other words, Anne Morrow Lindbergh in a wonderful book called the Gift from the Sea said, "You cannot water an entire field if you've only got a sprinkling can, so go do your own little plot as best you can and that really works." When I finished the Boston Marathon, I knew if I quit for any reason whatsoever people would pillory me and say, "See, women are always barging into places where they don't belong, not welcome, and can't do it anyway." I knew no matter what, even on my hands and knees I was going to have to finish that race. Fortunately, it worked out for me. Then the amount of work I realized ahead was enormous, but how do you begin then? You begin in your own neighborhood. I went back to Syracuse, New York, with Arnie. We were at the university, and he was the mailman, and I was a junior in the school. We immediately began organizing a club. We said, "Hey, every Tuesday night we're going to have a 10K road race. You want to come?"
Pretty soon we had hundreds of people. That club is still the second biggest club now in New York State. It's really amazing what happens. Then you say, "Gee, we should have some prizes here." Well, how are you going to get prizes? You go and you knock on some doors of stores and you say, "Hey, how about a trophy for the race?" You start learning how to get sponsorships, and then you start writing press releases, and then you start joining committees. I was expelled from the Athletic Federation, and I was dequeued from the Boston Marathon because I'd run without a chaperone, because I'd run with men, because I'd run more than a mile and a half. You just have to laugh at this stuff, and then you have to say, "Okay, well, how are you going to change the system? Are you going to thumb your nose at it and tell them they're all jerks?" Well, that always just annoys people, so get into the system, join the committee, do your homework, and get your legislative work done. It's the hard way to do it, but it works. You change the system from within and you can change the system from without. Those are things of how to be a role model. God doesn't come down and tap you on the head and say, "You're destined for greatness." I think greatness is like licking the envelope and be out there talking to people and finishing the job.
You got to finish the job.
It just reminds me of how our community and our podcast started growing from the same grassroots work that you did. One of the largest groups within our community is around intermittent fasting, this notion of having a tighter and tighter eating window and taking advantage of different metabolic processes. It was very much the same thing of just hosting breakfasts in terms of encouraging people to get together and share their fasting practices, similar to what you were doing in terms of starting a running club and just building a community and building a grassroots movement. Now, we've tens of thousands of people in these groups and tens of thousands of listeners on the podcast, and it just, I think, reflects back to the beginning of the running club that you built in New York State, where it was just like, okay, let's just start hosting things and people show up, and it keeps growing and growing because you're doing something that's valuable to people.
You also need to create an opportunity where some people can't imagine an opportunity exists. This is the harder thing.
For instance, how was I going to get women interested in running when they thought if they ran they were going to get big legs, grow hair on their chest, never get a boyfriend and their uterus was going to fall out?
All those are myths that exist in many countries still today, and that women themselves in my generation absolutely believed. Now, I didn't have that because I had a role model of a great mom who was a working mom. She was an educator. She was supermom. My whole family had been pioneers, homesteaders, and the women were extremely capable, and they were not unfeminine. Those women were incredible role models to me. A marathon was nothing compared to having a baby alongside of a wagon train when you're going out west. Let's put it in perspective.
When I was trying to convince women how to join me, I realized that many of them were writing to me and they were saying, "I would run if you would run. I'm afraid to do it by myself." I thought, "You know what, create an event for them that is really fetching and welcoming, feminine, women-only, non-competitive, fun, cool stuff. Instead of having trophies have nice jewelry. Have really great refreshments afterwards like fruit. Make it really a fun experience. Music, flowers, all that kind of stuff." By golly, it worked. I sold the idea to Avon Cosmetics who hired me to put on a program. Well, it exploded. It was like you were telling me. Pretty soon we were in 27 countries with 400 events, over a million women. What I needed to prove though is, to the International Olympic Committee, we needed to get the women's marathon in the Olympic Games. There were really top athletes who didn't believe that they could be a long distance runner because they had never had the experience to try.
Here's a perfect example. I think everybody in the world has heard of Grete Waitz. Grete Waitz was the nine-time winner of the New York City marathon. When she ran her first marathon she was on the verge of retiring from running. She'd won the world cross country five times. She was in the Olympic Games. She won world cross, but on the track in the Olympics she was not a medalist. She said, "I'm going to give up. I can't keep up. I'm too slow." What she was is that she wasn't too slow, she was a born marathon runner. She just hadn't found her event. She couldn't understand how important the marathon was because it wasn't in the Olympic Games. Once it got into the Olympic Games suddenly people began to focus on, "Hey, I can do that." It's like when the iron man became an event, or the women's five and the 10,000, then people said, "I can do that. I can't run an 800 but I can run a 10,000." All of those races I was organizing around the world were designed to convince the International Olympic Committee also that we had the numbers, the statistics, the talent, the international representation to get the event in the Olympic Games, and we did. You can't ignore thousands of women running, and you can't ignore sub-2.30 marathon performances, and you can't ignore the fact that these women are from all over the world. We had our representation and we got the marathon voted in in 1984, and I thought, "Oh my gosh, that's the greatest accomplishment of my life. I can't believe we finally did it." It was, to me, as important as giving women the right to vote. Then you turn around as any athlete will, the minute you break four hours in a marathon and then you break three hours in a marathon, and you turn around and then you see Kipchoge's run a 1:01.
Try to get two. Yeah.
I mean, sorry, a 2:01. Sorry. 1:01's pretty fast.
Maybe next time, 1:01.
Yeah. What you see is how much is left yet to do, and that's also what propels you into keeping at it, working at it, and making things happen.
That's a good segue into talking about how do you think the sport has changed? Obviously the training, the nutrition, obviously a lot more talent from both men and women entering endurance running, marathons. Even just in your history and your experience, how has that changed?
Tremendously. I mean it always will. It's sort of like when Roger Bannister ran ...
The four-minute mile.
...under the four-minute mile. Everybody said, those days, "If you run under four minutes a mile, your heart will explode." What we're realizing is the capacity for human achievement's unimaginable. The only way you can imagine what you can achieve is to take the next step. Everybody who says, "Honestly, I could just never run a sub-three-hour marathon," well, then they do, and they say, "Holy Toledo. My body is amazing." Then you realize, "If I can do that, maybe I can do 2.45." That's what I say. Constantly we're going to see improvement. One of the things I think we're also going to see, and this is when I talk about the power, also, of imagination, is women's sports is relatively new. Men have had Olympic sports for 3,000 years. Women have really only had sports for the last, well, 100 years, but certainly the last 50 years is when we've really been paying attention.
Now, we're realizing that maybe women have something different and better than men, which is endurance, stamina, flexibility, balance. Those are all attributes of sport just like speed, power, and strength.
Doesn't mean one is better than the other. It means we're different. What we're going to see, I believe, in the next 50 years is the proliferation of sports, that maybe you and I sitting here today talking can't even quite imagine, that utilize women's unique capabilities. I mean already women are winning distance swimming like English Channel, some of the big, big, big, ultra races outright. We're just beginning to tap into this area of what ultimately can different individuals do based on their gender differences, which is going to be very, very interesting.
I think that brings up a good point, because I think when people are exploring the differences between sports performance between men and women, or even the pay equality between men and women's sport. I think the one thing that you bring up that's right is that some of these ultra-endurance events, ultra-endurance swimming, women are not just as good as men in those events, they're straight-up winning as the best human in those events, which I think is important to realize. Can we speculate here? I think a lot of our audience, we look towards the future, a lot of us are bio hackers. A lot of us are endurance athletes. Do you think an iron man will be an Olympic event? Do you think a 100-miler will be an Olympic event, someone taking the charge there? You see women owning the overall record, not men being typically a little bit better on some of these events?
Yeah. Absolutely. Come on, I can remember when the triathlon was a barroom bet. There were the three hunky guys who created it, and now it is in the Olympics. It's not as an iron man, but-
Yeah. Right, so Olympic sport.
Yeah. That's just because of the limited amount of time on the road and the organization. Sure. I definitely see the iron man. What I see is something even different. I see 24-hour runs. I see 100-mile race. I see something fun, which might be a relay where men have speed, power and strength, and women have the endurance and stamina, and we somehow combine those in an event that you and I are not even imagining right now, but somebody out there if they put their heads together can create something really quite amazing. Listen, we never believed in a million years 50 years ago that the women's marathon would be in the Olympic Games. I did, but I'm a kind of wacky person that way.
I think the possibilities are definitely there. We were talking to the folks behind obstacle course racing, so you might have seen Tough Mudders or Spartan Races, American Ninja. There's a federation trying to create that as an Olympic sport. The first time I heard about it, I was like, "Whoa, that's kind of quirky." I think you've seen firsthand, you created an Olympic sport, and these are all arbitrary inventions.
Like, what is the events? Right. It's just like, okay, if you can create it, then why can't we create something else that would take advantage of woman's different physiology? Which I think is an interesting point. Men essentially created a lot of the sports that we all know and love today, but that doesn't mean that football, basketball, soccer, those are pretty damned arbitrary games.
They are, and we're already seeing the difference in men's and women's sports. Women play a different game of soccer than men do, just like women's tennis is different from men's tennis. Many people now prefer to watch the women's game in tennis, for instance, because they either relate more to it or they just prefer the finesse over the speed and power. It's the same with me, I'd rather watch women's soccer than men's soccer, because I don't like all the stupid histrionics that the, "Oh, I've hurt myself." You know? That the men go through.
It's silly. That is funny. Yeah.
What I'm saying is we could take traditional sports and put a different spin on them. I love the idea of creating a whole new something, which I think will happen. I think the younger people listening to this show, I mean there's a revenue stream here.
You see esports. We were talking to a professional esports player on our last episode. Who knew that people literally get paid millions of dollars playing video games?
That would be unimaginable even 20 years ago. How much of the evolution of sport do you think is driven by the entertainment value or the revenue stream perspective? I think tennis is one of the interesting sports where the pay gap is actually very, very close, where I think a lot of people actually enjoy watching the women's game just as much if not more than the men's game, but often for ... I was reading a recent article about the NBA and the WNBA, obviously the pay gap there is tremendously different. What is your perspective on that? Do you see this as a marketplace where whoever is the most entertaining, therefore they capture the dollars? Should we as a society try to balance this more, or should we stay more hands-off? What is your thought on the different, sort the marketplace, the business of sport?
I'm philosophical about it. Yes, are men paid a lot more than women in sports across the board? Yeah. A lot, lot, lot more. Do they get better fields and better facilities and better uniforms and better sponsorship? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Men have had sports for 3,000 years and women have had sports for 100 years, or 50 years even. We're just beginning. We're going to catch up. One thing that is one of my jokes which is when it comes to gender differences in sports, women can out-shop men any day of the week. Women will buy a lot more stuff, because women are so empowered by sports, and they love the fact that anything that makes them feel empowered they will buy. That's a joke but it's true. We all will pay for things we love to do or that make us feel better. That's true. The bigger part on the financial thing is it's going to be a matter of when whatever is happening on the field or in the court captures the public imagination.
Again, the catch up is going to be actually with women themselves and men, when we come to regard women as worth spectating for. Women's sports right now the great boom in women's sports is really in participatory sports, not so much in spectator sports. When I was asked this question a couple of weeks ago at the Berlin Marathon, a woman said, "What can we do to really make sure women get more publicity and better court time and more visibility and spectators?" I said, "Well, when's the last time you bought a ticket?" She was stunned. I said, "Listen, we think nothing about buying a season ticket for our family to go to Syracuse University and watch the football games, but how many times you bought a ticket for women's basketball?" Everybody looks embarrassed. I say, "See, it's just a matter of thinking it through a little bit." Those are the kinds of things we need to do also as a society. If we believe in it, support it more.
It's refreshing to hear.
Sponsors have to realize that women spokespersons are very, very good. In soccer we see a lot of bad old boyos. In women's soccer there's some pretty great spokespeople. As little girls grow up and play sports as much as little boys do, we're going to want spokespeople and role models for them. It'll happen. I mean I'm not just a Pollyanna. It will happen. It's going to be a matter of time, but we can accelerate that by being more active players ourselves.
100%. I like the optimism. I know that we're short on time, so [crosstalk 00:31:18]-
I wanted to tell you or talk about one other thing, ...
...in terms of that, about the future. We're talking about something that is so far from some people's imaginations it's unbelievable. When I'm talking about women, for instance, we have to still realize that most of the women in the world still live in actually a fearful situation, whether they're repressed by poverty or social or religious or cultural restrictions. I mean there are plenty of places in the world where women can't get an education, have never had an opportunity. They can't go outside, can't carry their own passport. Not allowed to drive a car. I mean please. Now, we're thinking about creating a 100-mile race for them in the Olympics. That is so far from their imagination it's unbelievable. How can we reach them?
This is another thing when you ask about being a role model. I think people need to take on impossible tasks as well and say that they're not impossible.
Who would have ever imagined that this bib number 261 suddenly became this magic cult number about six years ago, meaning fearless in the face of adversity? It was because everybody was relating to my story about being thrown out of a race because I was a girl. Everybody relates to that because no matter who you are, male, female, or however old you are you've been told at one time in your life, "You're not welcome. You don't belong. You're the wrong race or the wrong color." Whatever. We've all been told, "You're not cute. You're too fat. You don't belong. You're not cool."
Everyone's heard. Everyone. I think everyone has.
Then you go and you run, and you feel fearless and you don't care. You prove to yourself that you are somebody. Suddenly this number becomes this poom, boom, magic number, and people are even tattooing it. We harnessed this number and created a non-profit to do that very thing, which is to go out to communities around the world and organize clubs, organize educational programs. Simply one woman who is fearless takes another woman's hand who is fearful and says, "Come on. Come walk, job, run with me. You will feel great."
Is that your next impossible task?
Well, we're doing it. We're doing it. We got 50 clubs around the world. We've just started a club in the Congo, in Goma. I'm really excited about it, because you know running is cheap and it's easy, and it's totally accessible. It's not like you have to have a court and 11 players and all that kind of stuff. That's what I would love people to support, not only my organization which is www.261fearless.org, but maybe in your own communities taking that step and doing something to bring on somebody else, or when you're abroad to think about what you can do to make something happen.Not just write a check and pay money, but maybe just take the time to get people out and moving and putting one foot in front of the other.
Being like a local role model, as you say.
Just helping the person, your neighbor. I think something that resonates a lot with me here is that you don't choose your chromosomes, you don't choose your race, you don't choose your sex, gender, et cetera, but what you do choose is what you do every single day. Especially for running, you just choose when to stop or not to stop. I think we can all take inspiration from that, back in 67' and all the work you've done since, to not stop and keep chasing the impossible task moving forward. So www.261fearless.org. Anything else? How do our listeners find you and follow along on all your work?
They can go to my website, marathonwoman.com, kathrineswitzer.com, but nobody gets Kathrine spelled correctly, so go to marathonwoman.com. There are ways to reach me, to reach my speaking people, or whatever. I'd love to hear from you. Really I would love you to come along to 261fearless.org, start a club, become our friend, and make things happen for people.
Thanks so much for the time. Appreciate it.
Thank you for having me. Really appreciate it.
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