Kathrine L Switzer

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Kathrine L Switzer

Immediate Family:

Daughter of John E Switzer, Capt. and Mary V Switzer
Wife of <private> Robinson
Ex-wife of <private> Miller
Sister of <private> Switzer

Managed by: Terry Jackson (Switzer)
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Kathrine L Switzer

Kathrine Switzer


  • Broke the gender barrier at the 1967 Boston Marathon, when she was the first woman to officially enter the race.
  • Winner of the 1974 New York City Marathon
  • Emmy Award-winning television commentator
  • Author, Running and Walking for Women over 40: the Road to Sanity and Vanity
  • Founder and Director, Avon Running Global Women's Circuit
  • Inducted into the National Distance Running Hall of Fame, July 1998, Inaugural Class
  • Inducted into the International Scholar-Athlete Hall of Fame, June, 2003
  • Named Runner of the Decade (1966-77) and One of the Visionaries of the Century (2000) by Runners World Magazine
  • Received Abebe Bikila Award from New York Road Runners for worldwide contribution to running, 2003
  • Received Pioneer Award in Sports Management from University of South Carolina's College of Sports and Entertainment Business for Avon International Running Circuit
  • Spokesperson for inaugural MORE Marathon for women over 40
  • Kathrine Switzer will always be best known as the woman who challenged the all-male tradition of the Boston Marathon and became the first woman to officially enter and run the event. Her entry created an uproar and worldwide notoriety when a race official tried to forcibly remove her from the competition. Three decades later, the incident continues to capture the public imagination and is, in part, the reason Switzer has dedicated her multi-faceted career to creating opportunities on all fronts for women


Switzer has run 35 marathons, won the 1974 New York City Marathon and in 1975 was ranked 6th in the world and 3rd in the USA in women's marathon. After a successful athletic career, she turned her attention to the creation of women's opportunities in sport, a sports marketing career, communication, and motivating others in both fitness and business.

Having been denied many athletic opportunities herself, Switzer's original goal of establishing opportunities in women's running first emerged in a big way when she created the Avon International Running Circuit for cosmetics giant Avon Products, Inc. over 20 years ago. This worldwide series of women's events and Switzer's tireless lobbying were instrumental in making the women's marathon an official event in the Olympic Games. The first women's Olympic marathon was 1984. The Avon program also revolutionized global social and cultural thinking as it opened the door for public acceptance of women's sports in many countries where few, if any, existed before. (In 2003, Switzer was awarded the Pioneer in Sport Management Award by the University of South Carolina's School of Sports and Entertainment Management for the creation of this innovative program.)

As the then-Director of Sports and Public Relations, Switzer also was responsible for Avon's sponsorship of all the company's sports sponsorships when they reached a new height in the 1980s with over $9 million annual budget. At this time, the company was the title sponsor of Women's Championship Tennis, the developmental Avon Futures Tennis circuit, the World Figure Skating Championship, the Women's International Bowling Congress Championship and miscellaneous equestrian and track and field events in addition to the Avon International Running Circuit. These programs were mostly discontinued in 1986 and Switzer left Avon to pursue other business options through her own company, AtAlanta Sports Promotions, Inc. which she had established in 1982.

A decade later, in 1997, in one of the more amazing turn-arounds in sports sponsorship, Avon decided to return to its sponsorship of women's running. With Switzer again at the helm as Program Director, the company rebuilt the program under the banner of Avon Running- Global Women's Circuit, with an aim of giving women around the world an accessible means of fitness and health through running and walking programs. The program was launched in 1997 in 15 countries with a starting budget of $5 million. However, in 2002, like many companies, Avon downsized its operations and sponsorships, including Avon Running. Avon's sponsorship of women's running today is limited to the global portion of Avon Running, which continues in nine countries. As president of AtAlanta Sports Promotions, Switzer continues to advise these various countries in a consulting capacity.

In 2002, RYKA, the women's performance athletic footwear company, launched Take Fitness to Heart, its own series of women's running and walking events, and named Switzer as Director of Women's Health and Fitness, where she served as a spokesperson and advisor for the company through 2003.

2004 saw the inauguration of the MORE Marathon, a women's only marathon event for women over 40, sponsored by MORE Magazine. Switzer, along with legendary marathoner Grete Waitz, served as a spokesperson for the ground-breaking event.

As a communicator, Switzer works as a TV commentator, writer and public speaker. She has worked for all major networks and covered the Olympic, Commonwealth and Goodwill Games; World and National championships; Olympic Trials; 27 Boston, 19 Pittsburgh, 15 New York City, and 13 Los Angeles Marathons, as well as hundreds of local road races. In 1997 she won an Emmy Award for her commentary for Los Angeles.

As a writer, Switzer is also widely recognized as an innovator and leader in women's fitness, health and longevity as well as running. For many years, she has motivated hundreds of thousands of women around the world to the starting line of fitness, using running or walking as a cost-effective and time efficient means for women to obtain heath, optimum weight and self-esteem. Her book, Running and Walking For Women over 40 ..the Road to Sanity and Vanity (St. Martin's Press) is a best seller in the Unite States and is published also in national versions in Germany, Hungary, New Zealand and Australia. Her articles have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Parade, Women's Today, Runners World, Running Times and other publications.

Kathrine Switzer is also in demand as a personality, with compelling and inspirational stories to tell. She has been featured in publications around the world and on hundreds of radio and TV shows, including Oprah, Today, Good Morning America, Tonight, Nightline, HBO, NPR, BBC and CBC, and is often sought out for a visionary opinion on the future of women's sports or controversial issues.

Kathrine Switzer is a dynamic and effective speaker. She is a woman who has pioneered an obscure activity into global movement, and has parlayed her success as an iconoclastic athlete also into successful corporate sports marketing and public relations careers with Avon, AMF Incorporated, and Bristol Myers. Whether business, sports or health, Switzer is sought after to speak to corporate, university, association and convention groups because she is a fit, authentic success herself, and conveys high energy in the following topic areas:


Switzer's pioneering work in women's sports marketing has served as a design model for many in business and education. She is in demand as a leader and speaker in the field, especially showing how to make adversity work as a business-generating opportunity by creating innovative programs. Her speeches and workshops can be tailored specifically to address the areas of Event Management, Sports Marketing, Public Relations, Media Events and Destination Tourism 

"Becoming the Hero in Your Own Life"-- a get-real health and fitness experience, Switzer motivates audiences to make fitness a part of their time-constrained lives, telling why and showing how to take charge of their own health and well-being. (Switzer is also in demand to lead interactive events and fitness clinics for men and women of all ages, sizes and previous experience. She receives a constant stream of thank you letters from people whose lives she's changed.) Sports: Switzer is a pivotal figure in women's sports history, as well as the women's Olympic movement and the global history of running. She captivates audiences with her often rollicking and always moving talks on the history of women in sports and in particular the tremendous social and cultural change that has occurred through the women's sports movement. She is a visionary and offers up her thought-provoking glimpses of the future for all audiences. Forestalling the Aging Process: We're living longer, and Switzer shows us how to live better. She deals with the realities of aging, dispels the myths and fears, and shows us how to fight back effectively, with an emphasis on prevention of the major killers of today: heart disease, diabetes, obesity and osteoporosis.

Switzer has also received numerous citations and awards for her efforts in advancing sports opportunities for women, including a New York State Regents Medal of Excellence and the Billie Jean King Award from the Women's Sports Foundation for her contribution to sports. She was named "Runner of the Decade" and one of four "Visionaries of the Century" by Runner's World magazine, and an Honor Fellow from the National Association of Girls and Women in Sports. In 1998 she was one of the five inaugural inductees into the National Distance Running Hall of Fame, and in 2000, the Road Runners Club of America honored her with the Fred Lebow Award for contribution to women's running. In 2003, she was awarded the prestigious Abebe Bikila Award by the New York Road Runners for her worldwide contributions to running and was inducted into the International Scholar-Athlete Hall of Fame. She is also in the Halls of Fame at Syracuse University, Lynchburg College, and the Road Runners Club of America.

Switzer received both her BA (dual degree in journalism and English) and her MA (in Public Relations) from Syracuse University's Newhouse School of Public Communications. She is married to Dr. Roger Robinson, professor, author and noted age-group runner. The couple divide their time living in New York City and Wellington, New Zealand. Kathrine continues to run six miles a day.


How Kathrine Switzer paved the way

Apr 12, 2012 5:52 PM ET | By Sarah Lorge Butler Special to espnW

http://espn.go.com/espnw/more-sports/7803502/2012-boston-marathon-how-kathrine-switzer-paved-way-female-runners Recommend912Tweet37Comments3EmailPrintThis week, as she has for three decades, Kathrine Switzer will make her happy homecoming at the Boston Marathon. She'll unpack in a hotel, start interviewing elite women runners and prep for her television commentating job for the race.

When she's not working, Switzer will mingle on the floor of the race expo, dole out advice and pose for pictures with thousands of runners. She'll autograph copies of her book, "Marathon Woman," which came out in 2007. In Boston more than any other place, fans will recognize her on the street, come up and shake her hand.

"This is my 30th consecutive year," Switzer said. "Can you imagine? It's really been amazing. I've broadcast every televised edition of the Boston Marathon."

It's a far cry from 1967.

Push comes to shove

Forty-five years ago, Switzer ran the race for the first time and tried to keep a low profile. When officials noticed a woman in the race, they launched an ugly attack -- which today is one of the most famous moments in the race's 115-year history -- to get her off the course.

Switzer, at the time a 19-year-old journalism major at Syracuse University, simply loved running. She had trained for months, even completing a 30-miler, to be sure she could finish. She and her coach, Arnie Briggs, had checked to see whether there were any rules prohibiting women from entering. There weren't; in those days, the idea of women running the 26.2-mile distance was so foreign, the rulebook made no mention of them. So she entered the race using her initials, K.V. Switzer, as was her habit, and was issued No. 261.

"I thought K.V. Switzer was a very cool signature," she said. "Like J.D. Salinger."

Switzer, her boyfriend, Tom Miller, and Briggs were two miles into the marathon when officials tried to evict her from the course. Their tactics were terrifying. In a rage, race director Jock Semple came lunging at her. He got his hands on her shoulders and screamed "Give me those numbers and get the hell out of my race!" The wild look in his eyes still haunts Switzer. "Seeing that face scared the s--- out of me," she said.

Before Semple could rip off Switzer's numbers, Miller, a 235-pound athlete (he was a football player and hammer thrower), laid a cross-body block on Semple, sending him to the side of the road in a heap. The entire sequence was captured on film by the press corps bus, riding just ahead of Switzer's group.

Switzer kept running. Over the next 20 miles, she felt humiliated, then angry, then brushed it off. Semple was a product of his time, she thought. It was inconceivable to most men that women could run long distances without doing harm to themselves, their reproductive systems (a woman's uterus might fall out, the thinking went) or their fragile psyches.

In the final miles of her race, Switzer began mulling why there weren't more opportunities for women to run.

"While I was running, I had been kind of blaming women for not knowing how wonderful running and sports could be," she said. "And then I realized it wasn't their fault. They didn't have opportunities. I'd been really lucky. It was kind of this 'Eureka!' moment."

After she finished in 4 hours, 20 minutes, news of her feat -- and the confrontation with Semple -- spread worldwide. At a New York State Thruway rest area on the way back to Syracuse that night, Switzer spotted the first pictures of herself on the back page of a newspaper. Her life had changed.

In the coming years, Switzer graduated from Syracuse, married Miller (and later divorced him), earned a master's degree and returned to run in Boston when women were officially welcomed in 1972, the same year Title IX became law. Over the next decade, Switzer made good on the promise she forged to herself during the late miles of the 1967 Boston Marathon, to create running opportunities for women.

It's a body of work that today's top marathoners say made their careers possible.

"I met her when I ran Boston the first time in 2009," said Kara Goucher, a 2:24 marathoner who will represent the United States at the Olympics in London this summer. "It is fair to say that her courage to run the Boston Marathon paved the way for me to live the life that I do. Thanks to her bravery, I am living my dreams and running professionally."

The Olympic dream

The 1967 Boston skirmish helped put women runners on the map, but it was Switzer's years of legwork afterward that led the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to add a women's marathon to the Games' program.

After women were granted official status at the Boston Marathon in 1972, the wheels in Switzer's head began to turn.

Joan Benoit won the first Olympic women's marathon race at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles."A lot of us began talking about, 'Well, maybe we should get the event in the Olympic Games,'" Switzer said. "Of course it seemed, again, like we were the lunatic fringe."

Switzer went to the Olympics in 1972 as a journalist. Seeing the power of sponsorship and money at the Games, she began to grasp the sort of backing the sport would need to advance.

Back in New York, working in public relations and promoting women's tennis and running, Switzer also continued training. Running twice a day and as many as 110 miles per week, Switzer won the 1974 New York City Marathon and ultimately ran a personal best of 2:51 at Boston in 1975. She believed the performance validated her as a serious athlete and advocate. It gave her clout.

A couple of years later, a top Avon executive who'd read about Switzer and her running invited her to look over a proposal for a women-only marathon in Atlanta. Switzer blew it out, rewriting it into a 40-page report, proposing a multicity (and eventually international) road racing series for women. The Avon International Running Circuit was born. Women came out by the thousands to compete. Switzer was involved in every detail, from the cut of the T-shirts and finishers' medals to the road closings and postrace news conferences.

The series was crucial to getting the marathon into the Games, because a sport has to be contested in 25 countries and on three continents before it can be considered. Beyond the races, Switzer was an indefatigable lobbyist -- meeting with officials from running's worldwide governing body, IOC members and organizers from the Los Angeles Olympic Committee. In 1981, with the success of the Avon circuit as proof of the sport's viability, the IOC voted to include a women's marathon in the 1984 Games.

"I have always been a Kathrine fan, because she was a serious runner who kept at it for many years until running that 2:51 PR," said Amby Burfoot, who won the 1968 Boston Marathon and went on to edit Runner's World magazine. "And also, of course, for having the corporate smarts and organizational tools to make the Avon Running Circuit into more than just an Avon marketing tool.

"It was a necessary precursor to the acceptance of the women's marathon by the IOC. Then she continued promoting running through her TV work and writing, so she's made contributions to the sport in every imaginable arena."

Switzer was part of the broadcast team for that first Olympic race in Los Angeles in 1984. She watched from a small control room as American Joan Benoit took the lead at Mile 3 and won by more than a minute. After her years of work led to that moment, "it was hard to keep it together toward the end," Switzer said.

The most emotional moment was 20 minutes after Benoit's finish, when Switzerland's Gabrielle Andersen-Scheiss staggered into the Olympic Stadium, suffering from heat exhaustion and struggling to finish. It took her six minutes to run the final lap of the track, and ABC's cameras followed her every step.

"I really almost lost it," Switzer said. "First of all, I thought it was sensationalist journalism, and I felt scared to death that they would see that and pull the event. They would say women can't handle the marathon."

Andersen-Scheiss recovered a few hours later and was hailed as a hero.

Kathrine Switzer plans to run in the 2017 Boston Marathon, the 50th anniversary of her first race there. A runner's life Switzer's internal clock is still geared around major marathons. These days, she lives in New Paltz, N.Y., from the Boston Marathon in April until the New York City Marathon in November. Then she and her husband, Roger Robinson, head to New Zealand for the winter. Switzer continues to give speeches, work for TV and write.

"Kathrine's tenacity proved that women would not lose their insides from running a marathon, but I equally admire how she continues to stay involved in the sport," said Deena Kastor, a bronze medalist at the 2004 Games in Athens and the American record-holder in the marathon (2:19). "She is a pioneer, a feisty competitor, and she adds insightful commentary to television coverage."

Switzer, now 65, still runs, too. Last fall, she ran the Berlin Marathon in 4:36.

"I was happy to finish," she said. "I wanted a 4:20, but who cares? After four hours, nobody cares. But here's the irony of it. Last week, for some reason, I looked up Boston qualifiers and I came hollering out of my study. I was like, 'You won't believe it. I still qualify for Boston!'"

Switzer plans to run the race again in 2017, the 50th anniversary of the year Semple tried to push her out of the marathon. Every year since, Switzer has pushed back, and women distance runners will be forever grateful


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Kathrine L Switzer's Timeline

January 5, 1947
George C Marshall High School,
Syracuse University
Newhouse School of Public Communications
Lynchburg College, SI