In 2011, 43% of the Boston Marathon’s participants—people who met qualifying times for one of the most prestigious and grueling races in the U.S.—were female. In 1967, only one was, and she was nearly evicted from the course for being a woman. Her name is Kathrine Switzer, and anyone who’s seen photos of her dodging the reach of race official Jock Semple is likely to remember the incredible resistance she met when she registered and ran the race (he famously yelled after her: “Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers.”) Then, the concept of female distance running was so foreign, the race didn’t even have a women’s division (Switzer registered under the name K.V. Switzer, and was never asked to specify her gender on the forms); now, women comprise more than half of all participants in 5-Ks, 10-Ks, and half-marathons, and come close in marathons.
In honor of the women who’ve made it possible for us to race—and celebrate National Running Day—alongside men, here’s a snapshot of some key trail blazers, and what they accomplished: