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William C. Altreuter
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Monday, April 20, 2015

Every Patriots' Day I like to take a moment to think about Katherine Switzer. She wasn't the first woman to run the Boston Marathon (Bobbi Gibb ran it without a number in 1966 and in '67, the year that "K.V. Switzer" officially entered), but she gets credit for being such a visible leader, and she deserves it. I can never decide if social change occurs slowly or all at once-- it was 1970 before the Road Runners Club of America held the first women’s marathon championship (won by Sara Mae Berman), and Boston didn't allow women entrants until two years after that.I suppose what that really means is that attaining equality is a marathon, not a sprint. Here is newsreel footage, which I'd never seen before: Switzer is described as "a leggy lady" which is nearly as telling as Jock Semple's assault. (I'm glad they ended as friends-- it shows that we can evolve as individuals as well as a society. I'm also glad that running attire has evolved-- 26.2 in the rain in a grey cotton sweatsuit must have been rough.) When I think about sports this is what I like to think about: how sports is something that anyone who is determined to do can do, and how sport demonstrates our fundamental humanity. Race and sex and sexual identity and nationality and all of the other things that manage to divide people fall away when we step on the course or the pitch or the diamond, and what remains is what is important. 

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