The Boston Marathon is the oldest continuously running marathon in the United States. It’s the second longest-running footrace in the country, but only because it debuted 5 months after the Buffalo Turkey Trot.
It was held for the first time in April 1897, meant to coincide with Patriots’ Day. For the uninitiated, it’s a New England (and Wisconsin) holiday, commemorating the first battles of the revolutionary war. Patriots’ Day used to be April 19th, but since 1969, it’s been the 3rd Monday in April.
It’s weird to think about these days, but women were not allowed to officially compete in the Boston marathon until 1972. A few very brave women did it anyway, sometimes getting caught, sometimes slipping through the cracks.
Seriously, zero women.
The most famous pre-1972 female runner is Kathryn Switzer, she registered as K.V. Switzer in 1967, and – due to an oversight – they let her through, with an official number and everything. At some point in the race, all hell breaks loose. Kathryn meets a man named Jock Semple. Well, meets is probably the wrong word. She’s attacked by a man named Jock Semple, who tries to rip the race number off of her. Luckily, her boyfriend sees it happening and shoves Mr. Semple, an actual race official to the ground.
Jock Semple v Kathryn Switzer, 1967.
Amazingly, this is nowhere near the weirdest thing to happen at the Boston Marathon. That distinction goes to a woman named Rosie Ruiz.
Rosie Ruiz was born in Havana, Cuba in 1953. She moved with her family to Miami, just after the Cuban Revolution, in 1962. She grew up in Miami and then moved to New York City in the early 70s.
In 1979, she entered the New York City Marathon and finished with an official time of 2:56:29, which was astounding, especially for a first-timer. Her performance was good enough for 11th place, and good enough to qualify her to run in the Boston Marathon 8 months later.
Rosie Ruiz with Men’s Winner Bill Rodgers, 1980.
What happens next is what we’re talking about this week. From Korean bans to post-race lasagna, from damning subway rides to the screaming encouragement of Wellesley women – we’ll get into all of it.