Women's Running Pioneer Speaks in Cortland

By Lorne Fultonberg

October 22, 2012 Updated Oct 22, 2012 at 6:12 PM EDT

Cortland, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Katherine Switzer was the first woman to register for and run the Boston Marathon before spending her life promoting women's athletics. She spoke to students and the community at SUNY Cortland.

For Switzer, 45 years ago seems like yesterday.

That was when she braved cold, snow and discrimination to run the Boston Marathon. She made history, becoming the first woman to register for and run the race.

That was when the race's director caught up to her at the second mile and tore at her bib, trying to physically remove her from competition.

Her anger fueled her then. Now, she says she thanks the race director every day.

"It really opened my eyes to the discrimination that existed for women," Switzer said. "It propelled me into not only a passion but a career of creating change, creating opportunities."

Switzer founded the Avon International Running Circuit, which brought races for women to dozens of countries. The program is credited with attracting more than a million participants. Runner's World magazine named her its female runner of the decade for 1967-1977 and one of its four visionaries of the century.

"People are finally realizing that the sport's opprotunities for woman are available," she said. "Before, 45 years ago, I was considered an oddity, a freak even. So to realize as everybody does that Title IX has kicked in fully that there's no restriction, that the equality is there is very important."

Switzer spoke to students and community members at SUNY Cortland Monday, in a lecture that told her story, but also offered words of encouragement to students.

Switzer admitted she's not the most talented athlete, but it was her drive that got her through. That's what she wanted students to take away.

"They are limited only by their own thoughts," she said. "Talent is everywhere and that it only needs an opportunity. They are in the captain's seat right now. They just have to go out there and do it."