How Breaking The Rules Changed Women's Sports
When Roberta Gibb tried to register for the 1966 Boston Marathon, her rejection letter was short and to the point: race regulations didn't allow women to compete in any race longer than 1.5 miles, and women were supposedly physiologically incapable of running a marathon distance. She did it anyway: the day of the race, the 23-year-old hid in the bushes, waited for enough runners to pass, and started to run. She finished in 3:21:40, among the top third of the male finishers. The next year, inspired by Gibb's run, 20-year-old Kathrine Switzer registered for the race using only her initials. She finished in 4:20:02. Her only hiccup came when a race director chased her down and grabbed her mid-race, only to be fought off by the male runners around her. Gibb and Switzer's historic rule-breaking led the Amateur Athletics Union to allow women to enter their marathons, including Boston, in 1971. Today, women make up nearly half of Boston Marathon finishers.