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Update: The Boston Athletic Association will retire bib number 261 in honor of Kathrine Switzer after she runs the 121st Boston Marathon, which is also the 50th anniversary of her historic first run. It is the second-ever time the race's organizers have retired a bib number in its history — the first was number 61 in honor of the late marathoner Johnny Kelley.
The woman who helped break the Boston Marathon's gender barrier is returning to the course next year to mark 50 years since her historic run.
Kathrine Switzer signed up to run the 1967 Boston Marathon at age 20 using her first and middle initials, back when women still weren't allowed to participate. She ran with bib No. 261. Two miles into the race an official tried to physically remove her from the course, an infamous moment that was captured on camera.
It wasn't until five years later, in 1972, that the Boston Athletic Association began allowing women to register. Switzer placed third in that race. She's now run Boston eight times.
"What was a dramatic incident 50 years ago when angry race co-director Jock Semple tried to throw me off the course for being a girl, became instead a defining moment for me and women runners throughout the world," Switzer said in a statement, released by the BAA, announcing her plans to run in 2017. "The result is nothing less than a social revolution; there are now more women runners in the United States than men.”
Switzer, who for years has been a television commentator for the Boston Marathon, will run the 2017 race with a team of women representing her nonprofit, 261 Fearless.
Back in 2011, Switzer spoke with WBUR about her experience running Boston in 1967 and what it was like to be a female athlete during that time.
"It was widely believed, you know, that if a woman did anything arduous in sports she was going to get big legs and grow hair on her chest and her uterus was going to fall out," Switzer told WBUR. "We grew up with these myths and many, many women were afraid of sports and running in particular, distance running, and it was deemed somewhat socially unacceptable."
Switzer, who's now 69, has run dozens of marathons. Her fastest was the 1975 Boston Marathon. She finished second in 2 hours 51 minutes and 37 seconds.