A tale from when women were new to marathons

When it comes to racing stories, I’m drawn to back-of-the-pack dramas. And so when Kathi Weiss told me a few months ago – near the back of the pack of the River City Rat Race, appropriately enough – that she was the last-place finisher in the 1978 Fort Wayne Marathon, I knew I’d want to hit her up to hear the full story one of these days.

Kathi Weiss

Kathi Weiss

There were only 55 women in that race, just a little over 10 percent of the 499 who finished. That seems weird to me now, but Kathi pointed out that it was only six years after they started allowing women to enter the Boston Marathon. And even that didn’t happen until FIVE YEARS after Kathrine Switzer was physically and verbally harassed – by the race director, no less — for daring to run the 1967 Boston Marathon.

Kathi’s 1978 race was impressive in its own way, primarily because she toughed it out despite not training adequately. (She was also trying to prove she wasn’t  “over the hill” at age 30, which is another thing that seems weird all these years later.) She also made an amusing discovery 37 years after the fact, as detailed in today’s newspaper column.

Kathrine Switzer being attacked by race director Jock Semple for daring to run the 1967 Boston Marathon.

Kathrine Switzer being chased by race director Jock Semple for daring to run the 1967 Boston Marathon. He was trying to rip her race number off after she entered the all-male race using only her initials.

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