Ageism is the new sexism, says trailblazer for women's rights in sport

Kathrine Switzer was the first woman to run the Boston marathon and now fights a new discrimination

2 min By Evelyn Watta
 Kathrine Switzer celebrates after finishing the London Marathon.

Kathrine Switzer had to fight her way to the finish line of her first major marathon.

She broke the glass ceiling for women by officially registering and competing at the premier American event, in Boston in 1967.

During the race, an official tried to stop her, but Switzer managed to stay on and finish the marathon.

Then she ran for equality.

Half a decade later her struggles with discrimination persist, but now her main fight is a different one.

“We are actually in to the next revolution, which is ageing,” Switzer told the Olympic Channel.

Fighting Ageism

The American, a symbol for women in sport, feels ageism is right there with sexism.

“And as a 71-year-old myself, I’m now getting the same prejudice that I got 50 years ago as a woman.

“They said to older people the same thing they said to us 50 years ago as women, you are too weak, you are too fragile you should slow down," she adds of her push to inspire another generation of runners.

"Now the ageing population is hearing that, and we are changing that. We are now into second generation of 'see mummy run'.

"All those kids are watching their mothers run every morning, or working on a half marathon in the weekend, and taking fitness seriously. We’re changing health and we’re changing attitudes."

The running never stops

Last year the 1974 New York marathon champion returned to the same course she had competed in 1967.

Switzer finished the Boston 42km run in 4 hours 44 minutes 31 seconds, wearing the same bib number: 261.

Her time was remarkably just 20 minutes slower than her first race on the course.

Earlier this year she also ran the London marathon.

Eager to pass the baton

“I think there are two things I’m extremely proud of after the Boston marathon. One is that a 20-year-old made the decision to finish the race under incredible duress.

"I decided to finish that race no matter what happened. It inspired me to create change.

"I will never regret that,” she recalled of the fearless move that changed the course for women runners.

In 1972 women were allowed to race at the Boston marathon officially for the first time.

"It’s time to pass the torch, everybody needs to take a hand on this because we still have a long way to go.

"Everybody has an opportunity to pick up a social injustice and do something correct”

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