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Katherine Switzer — March, 2015
Kathrine Switzer is best known for entering and finishing the 1967 Boston Marathon with her initials, K.V. Switzer, and race number 261, when there wasn't a woman's division. Kathrine was the second woman to finish the Boston Marathon behind Bobbi Gibb, who won in 1966 and 1967. She won the 1974 New York City Marathon. Kathrine finished second at the 1975 Boston Marathon with her personal best of 2:51:33 and, at that time, was the sixth fastest woman marathoner. She founded the Avon International Marathon and Avon Global Running Circuit and was influential in adding the women’s marathon to the Olympic Games. Her high school and collegiate athletics included field hockey, basketball and lacrosse. Track and cross country were not available, so she ran the longest events for women, 440 and 880 yards, at AAU meets. Kathrine has raced 39 marathons including eight Boston Marathons. Her personal best times include: 800y – 2:31; mile – 5:35; 5,000m – 18:10; 10,000m – 37:10; 10 miles – 61 minutes; half marathon - 1:26 and marathon – 2:51:33. She is an Emmy Award-winning TV commentator who has broadcast over 200 races including the past 37 Boston Marathons. Kathrine is a journalist and author of three books, including ‘Marathon Woman.’ Her numerous accolades include the Abebe Bikila Award for Global Contribution to the Sport of Running from the NYRR, being named one of the Visionaries of the Century (2000), Hero of Running (2012) and Runners World’s Runner of the Decade (1966-1976). She was inducted into the National Distance Running Hall of Fame and the National Women’s HOF (2011) for creating positive global social change and Halls of Fame at Syracuse University, Lynchburg College and the RRCA. Kathrine is a graduate of Syracuse University’s famed Newhouse School of Communications. She is President of Marathon Woman and AtAlanta Sports Promotions, Inc. Kathrine resides half of the year each in New Zealand and in upstate New York State with her husband of over thirty years, Roger Robinson. She was kind in spending an hour and twenty minutes on the telephone from New Zealand for this interview.
GCR:It’s been nearly fifty years, 48 years this April, since you were the first woman to officially start and finish the Boston Marathon, which you did in 1967 after entering as ‘K.V. Switzer.’ Could you ever have imagined where that day would lead you down your life’s path and how it would contribute to changing the landscape for women in sport and life?
KVSI couldn’t have imagined it before the race, but I certainly would have imagined it at the end of the race. It’s really amazing and I often say that when I started that first race in 1967 I was a girl – when I finished I was a grown woman. Not only because you get a lifetime of experiences in every marathon – we all know that – but also because that incident that happened with that official attacking me. By the time I finished the race I had stopped being furiously angry with him and realized there was a huge gap, a huge lack in women’s understanding, and understanding about women’s opportunities, and that we only had to create opportunities for women for them to come through. So, by the time I finished the race loaded with endorphins and how your brain goes off on these amazing tilts when you’re running marathons I came up with this dream somehow that I would create those opportunities and make women’s running as popular and publicizable as men’s running. Of course, people thought for many, many years that I was off my conk (laughing heartily). But it wound up being a dream and a passion and, eventually, a career. When you are driven enough to make something happen, you find out ways of doing it. Yes, I did believe that we could do this, but I didn’t believe that women’s running would progress to the point that there are more women running in the United States than men. That is something that even surprises me. I’m a very egalitarian person and I always thought that men and women running together was one of the best things that ever happened to us. Men have been enormously helpful in women’s running success. Despite saying that, I do believe that ‘women’s only’ races were important to reduce the intimidation factor. Jumping ahead I would never have imagined that 58% or an even higher percentage of runners in the U.S. are women. What I’m excited about is seeing global growth and trends.
GCR:It’s interesting when you mention that just a few miles into the race B.A.A. race Director, Jock Semple, infamously tried to physically remove you from the race because of your gender, which was captured on film. I’m not sure what would have happened if that did not occur. Compare the immediacy and the badness of it when it occurred to the fact that photographers’ pictures were distributed all over the country and even overseas through newspapers. Also, discuss the long-lasting effects which are now immortalized as one of Time-Life’s ‘100 Photos that Changed the World’ which points to maybe it was good in the big picture that it happened.
KVSIt was amazing as I was a journalism student at Syracuse University. So when all of this happened it was one of the best lessons in journalism, publicity and the way communication and media worked that you could ever imagine because all of those things you mentioned happened. It was a colossal collision of circumstance. For instance, it was a snowy, sleeting and dreadful day, I was in a baggy sweat suit and, from a distance, I looked like one of the guys. Trust me; I was not trying to avoid looking like a woman. Underneath I had on a really nice top and shorts, I was very proud of being feminine and attractive. I was very proud of myself and had every confidence in my ability to do the race as I had done more than the distance in practice. I was ready to go. Bad weather, we all looked alike from a distance – a bunch of refugees. The Race Director was overwhelmed with the crowds and trying to get the race going on time with the bad weather conditions. It was miserable trying to keep warm. The press truck came by at the same time as the officials and they saw this girl in the race and they took the pictures. Jock Semple, the Race Director, was tired. He was a feisty, fiery guy anyway. He blew his stack. Journalists were teasing him. It just happened at that moment.
GCR:So it was almost a ‘perfect storm’ of circumstances?
KVSAll of those things wouldn’t have taken place, for instance, if I wasn’t going out with an athlete doing the hammer throw who was running along with me and who helped fight off Jock Semple’s attack, if my Coach Arnie didn’t believe I could run the race and helped me to sign up, if I hadn’t officially signed up and got a bib number. It was just a colossal series of coincidences. What if when I sent in my entry Jock Semple hadn’t accepted it because I used my initials? Though, other runners had done that, so it wasn’t so unusual. So, would I have been able to be so successful in creating women’s running events without that photograph? The photograph certainly was a huge asset. Would I have done what I did anyway? I certainly would have. I would have dedicated myself to the cause of women’s running. But don’t forget there was a time, for many years, when that photograph and my doing what I did antagonized people. Women were the worst to me about it. They said I shouldn’t have done it, I was stepping out of place, I was upsetting the status quo, and so on.
GCR:How did the way that Boston Marathon played out give you the impetus over the next several years in major areas of your life?
KVSI went back and did all of my homework which was to get a good education in public relations and marketing and journalism. Also I became a good athlete. I trained my brains out to become a legitimate athlete so I wasn’t just an upstart. I won the New York City Marathon, ran a 2:51 in Boston, ran 39 marathons, ran a lot of events and was everywhere. I set up business proposals to do a circuit of women’s running races that eventually went to 27 countries with over a million women involved. I worked with people to change legislation to get the women’s marathon in the Olympic Games. There were many meetings with the IAAF in London and going to L.A. to work with peter Ueberroth before the L.A. Olympics to make that event happen.
GCR:Why did you initially want to run a marathon, and particularly the Boston Marathon?
KVSI discovered early that running always made me feel powerful, free and fearless. The longer I ran, the stronger I felt, so the 26.2-mile distance intrigued me. The Boston Marathon, which was founded in 1897, was the most famous race in the world to me next to the Olympics. Yet unlike the Olympics, it was supposedly open to anyone who wanted to try to run. I felt thrilled by the prospect of running 26.2 miles in a race where supposedly anyone could run in the same race as the greatest runners in the world. Also, my coach Arnie Briggs had run the Boston Marathon fifteen times and he used to tell me stories about this race and his tales inspired me.
GCR:Were you trying to make a statement when you first ran the 1967 Boston Marathon?
KVSNo, I was just a kid who wanted to run, and was there as a reward from my coach who didn’t believe that a woman could run the distance. I had heard that other women had run marathon distances and that one woman in 1966 ran the Boston Marathon, but without a bib number, so I wasn’t trying to break any barriers.
GCR:Did you sign your entry form with your initials, ‘K.V.,’ rather than using ‘Katherine’ so that you could get into a male-only race?
KVSFirst, there were no rules written saying it was a men’s only race. Next, there was nothing about gender on the entry form. Third, my coach told me it was okay for me to enter and in fact I must enter the race properly for my run to count. Lastly, I sign my name with my initials, K.V. Switzer. So the officials probably thought ‘K.’ stood for a man’s name. My name Kathrine was miss-spelled on my birth certificate and around age twelve I got tired of it being miss-spelled all the time. I also wanted to be a writer and admired authors like J.D. Salinger and e.e. cummings, so I thought using my initials was a cool, ‘writer-ly’ kind of thing to do. We checked the rule book and entry form and there was nothing about gender stated for the marathon. I filled in my AAU number, plunked down $3 cash as my entry fee, signed as I always sign my name, ‘K.V. Switzer,’ and went to the university infirmary to get a fitness certificate. Arnie got the travel permits and mailed our entries.
GCR:There is so much information these days about nutrition. What did you eat back in 1967 for your marathon pre-race meal?
KVSThe Boston Marathon started at noon, a great gift, as we slept in and didn’t eat breakfast until 9:00. Arnie said to chow down and that we needed a lot of fuel because it would be a long day and it was cold outside. He wasn’t kidding - it was freezing rain, with sleet and lots of wind. So we ate everything - bacon, eggs, pancakes, juice, coffee, milk, extra toast.
GCR:How inclement was the weather as you got ready to race and what was the vibe as other runners noticed a woman warming up?
KVSWhen we got to Hopkinton High School, the snow was really coming down. Arnie came out with the envelope and two number bibs each, to pin on our fronts and backs. We looked up our names in the printed start list and smiled at each other nervously. Seeing ‘K. Switzer’ in print beside ‘261’ gave me a little frisson. I pinned my numbers on my sweatshirt and not my burgundy top. It was the final commitment to wearing that warm sweatshirt for the whole race. I was pleased as the sweatshirt had been a buddy in Syracuse for several hundred miles of training and would live on another day, rather than dying at the roadside on the way to Boston. We started warming up. We all looked alike, like rag tags. As runners jogged past, most kept their nervous eyes ahead, lost in prerace concentration, but plenty did double takes, and when they did I’d smile back or wave a little wave. Yep, I’m a girl, my look back said. Many of these guys turned right around and jogged over, all excited. ‘Hey! You gonna go the whole way?’ ‘Gosh, it’s great to see a girl here!’ A mob of runners were funneling into a pen-like area. At the gate of the funnel were clipboard-holding Boston Athletic Association officials wearing long overcoats with blue ribbons on the lapels and felt dress hats. Their hats were gathering snow, as were the shoulders of the runners standing in the pen. They were checking off bib numbers as runners came through the gate; I held up the big outer sweatshirt so they could check my number and the official put his hand on my shoulder and gently shoved me forward, saying, ‘C’mon runners, let’s move on in, just keep it moving here!’ We worked our way into the back of the field, and Arnie said, ‘See? No problem!’ All around us the men were pleased to have a woman in their presence. I tried to stay low-key; I sure didn’t want any attention at this moment. The gun went off, and we were away at last.
GCR:I’ve run fifty marathons with a 2:22 best and in every marathon there is a time when it was just me versus the marathon. After that incident early in the race, how was it when the Boston Marathon became you versus the race distance and the elements and none of the other stuff really mattered?
KVSA couple of miles after the attack, we slowly began to notice things, like when you first come out of anesthesia. The energy was coming back. First we heard some feeble cheers; this was really nice, and we waved back. I felt I was going so slowly, that my soggy long pants must be dragging me down, so I went to the roadside, pulled them off, and tossed them away. Now we were halfway and in the famous Wellesley Hills, where in one of Arnie’s theories, ‘the race began.’ The distance, as it always does, gave me time to think and dissipated my anger. Jock Semple didn’t take me seriously, and that’s why he attacked me. My folks and Arnie had given me this chance, and it dawned on me that I was not special after all; just lucky. My thinking rolled on: The reason there are no intercollegiate sports for women at big universities, no scholarships, prize money, or any races longer than 800 meters is because women don’t have the opportunities to prove they want those things. If they could just take part, they’d feel the power and accomplishment and the situation would change. After what happened, I felt responsible to create those opportunities. My mind was whirling, but that couldn’t distract me from feeling the very big blisters in my arches that soon would burst. I could handle that; pain was nothing. It was part of what made you a hero, doing this, overcoming it, relegating pain to the incidental for a higher purpose.
GCR:What did you think of the famous ‘Heartbreak Hill’ when you ran up it just after the 20-mile point?
KVSI said, ‘Arnie, when do we get to Heartbreak Hill?’ Arnie looked startled. ‘Why, you passed over Heartbreak a long time ago!’ ‘We did? Gosh, I missed it. Why didn’t you tell us?’ I actually felt disappointed; I thought there would be a trumpet herald or something at the top. In fact, nowadays there is a guy who is a self-appointed archangel on a megaphone calling, ‘You’ve done it! You’re at the top of Heartbreak Hill!’ but that day it was so unremarkable, I didn’t know it from any of the other hills. Arnie was smiling and shaking his head. ‘You’ve got to be the only person not to know they ran over Heartbreak Hill!’ We turned from Commonwealth Avenue onto Beacon Street, and then it really did seem endless. There were all these row houses that looked alike, block after block. Someone from the sidelines shouted, ‘One mile to go!’ A nice cop directed us up Hereford Street, at the top of Hereford we rounded the corner onto Boylston, and there it was: the long slope down to the front of the Prudential building, to a line painted on the street, FINISH. Nobody had misdirected us, nobody had arrested us, and we were going to do it. The finish line crowd consisted of about a dozen waterlogged people, none of whom clapped for us.
GCR:Though you were in tune with all that was going on while racing, it sounds like you got lost in the race.
KVSWhen I was competitive for fast times I was always lost in the race. You probably remember every step of your PR. When I was running my PR I remember that race like it was yesterday and I remember exactly how it felt. I remember finishing and getting every second out of myself that I could. I was certainly lost in the race and the competition. But not in long training runs, especially my long training runs. On tempo runs and intervals you have to be thinking about the pace all of the time and monitoring, but on the long Sunday runs, which I loved, I could really let my mind drift. That’s when I got my most creative ideas. In fact, to this day, that is the thing I miss the most is those really long runs. The last eighteen months I’ve had an Achilles tendon problem and I’m finally coming out of it. Yesterday I had a banner day and ran for sixty-two minutes. So, I’m getting it back, but I can’t wait to get back to doing those two hour and two-and-a-half hour runs where you really get lost as its wonderful.
GCR:Speaking of long runs, I know that Arnie Briggs, your distance running coach when you were at Syracuse, helped you prepare for the Boston Marathon, insisted you run at least the marathon distance before race day and you did run 31 miles one day. Was he enthusiastic about your training for Boston?
KVSArnie was actually the university mailman and a veteran of fifteen Boston Marathons. He was excited to see a woman come out to run, and took slowpoke me under his training wing. To cajole me through tough evening sessions, Arnie told and retold stories of famous ‘Bostons.’ I loved listening to them until one night when I snapped and said, ‘Oh, let’s quit talking about the Boston Marathon and run the damn thing!’ ‘No woman can run the Boston Marathon,’ Arnie fired back. ‘Why not?’ I answered. ‘I’m running 10 miles a night!’ Arnie insisted the distance was too long for fragile women to run and exploded when I said that Roberta Gibb had jumped into the race and finished it the previous April. Then he added, ‘If any woman could do it, you could, but you would have to prove it to me. If you ran the distance in practice, I’d be the first to take you to Boston.’ Three weeks before the marathon, Arnie and I ran our 26-mile trial. As we came down our home stretch, it felt too easy, so I suggested that we run another five-mile loop just to feel ex¬tra confident about Boston. Arnie agreed, reluctantly. Toward the end of our 31-mile run, he began turning grey. When we finished, I hugged him ecstatically - and he passed out cold. The next day Arnie came to my dorm and insisted that I sign up for the race.
GCR:What was your training then in terms of days running per week, average weekly mileage and any intense training sessions?
KVSFor that Boston Marathon, when we decided to do it, it was probably mid-January. It was really a crash course at that point. Arnie said that we would continue to do what we were doing during the week and we would increase the distance every weekend. I just followed what he said. During the week on one day we did a six-miler, another day we did a ten-miler. Ten miles during the week was probably the longest run. We only did one run each day and nothing fast on those days – we just finished the distance. On the weekend we increased from 12 miles to 14, 16, 18 and I think we popped up to 26 miles. I don’t think we did a 20-miler. Later on when I was doing serious running and trying to get faster, because I don’t have any natural speed, I would do two workouts a day. I did an easy 10k in the morning, got dressed and went to work. Afterward I did a workout with a three mile warm up and some days some pretty intense stuff like twenty 400s and a two-mile cool down. I’d come home and be exhausted. So I was doing thirteen workouts a week in those days.
GCR:I think we all ran two-a-days six days a week and a long run on Sunday. That’s just what we did back in the 1970s.
KVSIt’s interesting that today people just don’t get it. It’s amazing – which is okay. Most people are not interested in getting fast, but as soon as they do something fast they are excited about it. But they aren’t willing to make that effort. I tell people that if they go out to run for an hour every evening that they should make some of it faster and then they will race faster. You can’t race faster unless you train faster. But that doesn’t interest many people. There was a while where the first American male at Boston was running a 2:28 or something whereas there used to be two hundred guys running that fast. The lack of depth of talent is shocking in the U.S. I don’t know why, but I think that maybe a lot of the American men are so intimidated by the Africans that they just say, ‘What’s the point?’
GCR:I have a lot of my own thoughts on that subject and thoughts from top distance runners I’ve interviewed, but we’d better table that at this time as it is an entire discussion in itself.
KVSOkay, we can talk about that another time.
GCR:Speaking of changing times, for anyone under the age of 40 or 45, it is difficult to fathom the lack of opportunities that girls and women had to compete in sports until sometime in the mid-1970s. What it was like for you as a teenager in the 1960s playing sports such as basketball and lacrosse, but with limited opportunities in the sport of running and no collegiate athletic scholarships?
KVSIt was really interesting. For a while I thought that was just how it was. Then there were these ‘eureka moments’ when things happened to my like in that 1967 Boston Marathon when I was wondering why I was the only one there and I seemed to be the only one to ‘get it.’ Then I realized there weren’t opportunities, women didn’t believe in themselves and were afraid as they may have believed all the old myths. I was really lucky in high school because we had a field hockey team and girls’ basketball team. Many people didn’t take it very seriously, but they were legitimate sports and we played other schools. Girls who were friends of mine who played and I took ourselves very seriously.
GCR:How was the athletic landscape for women when you went to college?
KVSIn college the first two years I went to Lynchburg College and no one had athletic scholarships – not men or women. There were teams for women’s field hockey and lacrosse. It wasn’t until I went to Syracuse that I realized the big scholarship system. I transferred to Syracuse for my junior and senior year and then my Master’s degree. I was really shocked because the powerhouse sports for men were on a professional level. They were money-making and really big. Women had play days. That was a shocker. It was like someone was telling me that at about age eighteen you were supposed to give up women’s sports and start settling in to being a grown woman and doing something serious like finding a man to marry. This irritated me and, since I had been running, I found the men’s track coach and asked if I could run with the men. That changed my life. It was at Syracuse that I was radicalized and wondered why men had sports opportunities and in the Olympics the longest running event was only 800 meters. I was running distances well and wanted to know why there weren’t distance events for women. Then I thought that maybe I was just weird because this was something I like doing and clearly other women don’t or they would be out there. It wasn’t until Boston that I realized it was the lack of opportunity and that became the driving force. So, I just went ahead and did what I did and I did so by myself. I chose running because it made me feel empowered. I knew it was something I could do by myself long after hockey and lacrosse went away and I was out working and earning a living. Running was something I could always do by myself. Sadly, I didn’t realize I could be competitive.
GCR:It’s interesting that you figured out on your own in the 1960s that by running every day you were able to compete more strongly and effective in other sports. I always tell this to people today that if you watch a basketball game or football game or tennis match whomever are the best runners will win in the end because they are in better shape. Doesn’t this resonate today that all athletes, whether they play team sports like soccer or basketball or individual sports like tennis, should incorporate regular running into their exercise regimen? Doesn’t this just make sense?
KVSI swear, even if you are a swimmer and you run you will get better and faster. You can get your heart rate up faster by running than by swimming. Definitely running is helpful. I love this story I heard about an English soccer team that was not winning and performing well, especially in the second half. There was this famous runner who went to the coach and said he would like to give them some running drills and said he could transform the team. They went out and did intervals and repeats and got so strong that they became great champions.
GCR:You are one of the ‘Pioneers of Women’s Distance Running’ along with Jacqueline Hansen, Kim Merritt, Gayle Barron, Doris Brown, Julie Brown, Miki Gorman, Nina Kuscsik, Cheryl Bridges, Marty Cooksey, Sue Petersen and others in the early and mid-1970s. Was there a camaraderie among you and could you feel that this group of women was setting the stage for the next wave of female distance runners?
KVSIt was more than camaraderie as we actually worked together. For instance Nina Kuscsik and I and Sara Berman along with a couple of other women in the Northeast were close enough that we could physically work together on getting women in the Boston Marathon. The problem was lack of communication so we only got to see some of the other women runners at a big race. That is one of the treasons that Boston was important to us because everybody came to Boston and we always had a Road Runners Club of America meeting the day before. We got together and went through things we wanted to accomplish. It was more than just bumping into each other and having a friendly camaraderie. The west coast and the east coast were pretty divided, like Judy Ikenberry was out west. I did meet Cheryl Bridges, who lived in the west, on a number of occasions as she and I were both invited to some of the same races. Cheryl and I never actually had the opportunity to work together on changing legislation. When we lined up for a race we were competitive with one another and we wanted to win. But we really knew what everybody was capable of. At any given time, unless something colossally bad happened, I always knew that Nina Kuscsik was going to be in front of me. Nina was always going to be five minutes, ten minutes faster than I was.
GCR:One of the biggest days of your racing career, which you mentioned briefly, was when you won the 1974 New York City Marathon on a very hot 100-degree day by nearly a half hour. What are some of the highlights of that race and how tough was the heat?
KVSThe heat was unbelievable. The race now would have been cancelled under those conditions. It was also very dangerous as there was a colossal lightning storm that happened in the last 10k. We were running through water on the course and there was lightning overhead. That was ridiculous, but in the last 10k of a marathon you don’t care how you’re going to die. It was sort of like, ‘bring it on!’ Everything else had gone wrong. It was amazing. I was really disappointed as the weather had been fabulous right up to the day before. Also, I was good on hills and that New York City Marathon course back then which was very, very tough with four laps in Central Park. Even though we had to run over those massive hills in the end I just knew I was going to break three hours. I knew every crack in the pavement and this was going to be my big moment. I had trained for years and this time it was all going to come together. But I couldn’t possibly break three hours with those temperatures. The 3:07 I ran was probably my best race ever in terms of the energy output. That’s all there was in that kind of heat. Ted Corbitt wrote wonderfully about how I was running up with fast men runners. I was just running my own pace. My disappointment was that it was a victory, but it meant I had six months to go for Boston which was my next big opportunity to break three hours. So, I had mixed feelings.
GCR:Were the crowds enthusiastic since you were the first woman as you approached the finish line and were leading?
KVSYes and no. There weren’t giant crowds in Central Park. We were a bunch of really weird people. I don’t think there were but two hundred and fifty people in the race at most. We had to contend with the Sunday people that always flood into in Central Park with their dogs, kids and New York Times, balancing paper cups of coffee as they walked across the road, not paying attention to the fact that some people were running their hearts out. There were cyclists moseying around the park and weaving in and out of the race. Those are all things that also gave me inspiration for change as I thought that someday I was going to organize a race with traffic control and where spectators would know what was going on and would be excited about what they were seeing. It was quite a feeling that we were in a half-baked sport, that we were really legitimate, that we were the masters of the universe and that we were fabulous, but nobody was talking us very seriously.
GCR:That was the second of Tom Fleming’s wins in New York. Was there an awards ceremony for the two of you or was he already back taking a cold shower?
KVSI can’t remember totally. We had the awards ceremony at the YMCA which is at the corner of Central Park West. I was so nauseous that I couldn’t wait to be called on stage, get my award, thank people and go home. It seemed like there were delays as times weren’t in, places weren’t in and there were a lot of problems. The rain and weather were also factors. There was about an hour delay and I remember stretching out on a bench and just lying there. My husband was asking if I was alright and I exclaimed, ‘No, I’m not alright!’ I was utterly exhausted. I remember clearly driving home after that. We lived in Connecticut, so it was an hour and a half drive to get home. I was hosting a dinner party because there were lots of people who helped me in the race as my crew. They met me around the course as there weren’t water stations. So I had my own crew with bottles of water. Then they all came up to the house and we had dinner. I was making dinner for everybody.
GCR:The next year you raced your personal best, 2:51:33, in finishing second, about nine minutes behind Liane Winter’s 2:42:24 World Record. How rewarding was it to run that fast and what were your thoughts about Liane’s time as a woman was running so fast?
KVSI really popped it, but I was fortunate as there could have been bad weather in Boston too, just like in New York. When you run a PR you can only be happy, even if you are beaten. It’s like in the 2012 Olympics in the 800 meters when David Rudisha won in one of the most incredible races, one of the greatest races I’ve ever seen in my life. He created what I call a ‘Rudisha Moment’ where everyone in that race ran a PR. The guy who finished last was interviewed and said something to the effect, ‘I just ran a PR and set a national record for my country and I finished last.’ But everyone in the race now thought they obviously could run faster than they thought they could run. So, I finished with a 2:51 on a day where I thought I could run about a 2:56. There was a tailwind, but still I felt it was perfect, better than I could have ever imagined. Liane beat me by that amount of time, nine minutes, and all I could say was, ‘God bless her.’ My time would have won the Boston women’s division every previous year in history. So, I had to be thrilled with that. I had no regrets and had to make a joke out of it – in New York I won by the biggest margin of victory of 27 minutes, and no one will ever come close, and in Boston I was defeated by the biggest margin of victory and no one is going to ever do that again either.
GCR:What is interesting in the next decade is how things changed when track runners stepped up to the marathon. When Grete Waitz raced a World Record 2:32:29 to win the 1978 New York City Marathon and repeated the following year with a stunning 2:27:32 it opened the eyes of many to the possibility that women could race much faster in the marathon. How did Grete’s performances change the landscape of women’s marathon racing?
KVSWhen Grete popped that time I was so excited because I had said back in 1972 when women were first official entrants in the Boston Marathon that one day a woman would run around a 2:32 marathon. And people hooted me out of the room. Hal Higdon was the loudest. He said it was the most ridiculous thing he had ever heard. I talked about looking at the times on the track and that they would translate. But he said that they couldn’t possibly translate because women were different. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha – I was right. Not only was I right, but more so because women have natural capacity for endurance and stamina and they are going to be better the longer the distance. When Grete came back the next year I was a TV commentator by then. I said, Grete Waitz is back, she has run a 2:32 and we are going to see a woman today not only win, but she is going to probably surprise us all with an astonishing World Record.’ My co-commentator, I think it was Jim McKay, said, ‘Bold predictions from Katherine Switzer.’ Then when she popped the 2:27 I felt very good. She rewrote the landscape and that was a very powerful tool for getting the women’s marathon into the Olympic Games. When someone could run 2:27 they deserved a marathon in the Olympics, so that was a very important point.
GCR:Also, how did the ladies graduating from college who had started running under the opportunities of Title IX step up the talent-level of women’s marathon racers and help get the women’s marathon into the Olympics?
KVSTitle IX interestingly was voted in the same year that women were made official at Boston. A lot of people credited me with Title IX happening which was totally wrong. I was working globally - I wasn’t working specifically in the U.S. I was trying to get the women’s marathon in the Olympics. I wasn’t working hard to get equal opportunity in education because a lot of other women were and were doing it much more effectively than I could. However, getting women officially in the Boston Marathon didn’t hurt in getting Title IX passed, because clearly if women could run a marathon and get accepted in the all-male, arch-male Marathon, they deserved to have an equal opportunity in sports and education. I’m sure it helped President Richard Nixon a lot when he signed that into law, so that was really good. Having said that, Title IX has changed the landscape, not only in the United States for women in sports and education, but really around the world because a rising tide lifts all ships. I think that the world looked at Title IX and saw that equality in education and sports obviously has made the women here a major player on the world stage.
GCR:With all the great impact of Title IX, I want to ask you about an unintended negative consequence. While this has revolutionized opportunities for women, especially in sports and education, in recent years as most colleges have fully added women’s sports and the percentages of women students has increased, a method to be in compliance with Title IX has been to cut men’s sports. Hundreds of men’s sports teams in so-called minor sports like wrestling, cross country, tennis, golf and swimming have been discontinued. What are your thoughts on this unintended consequence of Title IX?
KVSThere is not a woman athlete in the world who would want to deprive a man of his athletic experience and his opportunity. Talk to any woman runner or athlete and she will say the same thing. We find that tragic. Here is the problem: the problem is American football. The problem is the unwillingness to believe that you don’t need to field four guys for every single position. It has become a monster and is getting worse. It is absolutely the tail wagging the dog. Football coaches are earning up to six million dollars per year!
GCR:I’ve done some research on Title IX and, in 1972, Senator John Tower of Texas proposed an amendment that football not be a part of the equation and that didn’t pass. Back then it was probably good because it helped women, but if that amendment was included now it would probably eliminate the cutting of men’s sports where a lot of athletic directors find it an easy way to both satisfy Title IX and save money in their departments by getting rid of non-revenue sports. It’s turned into a sad thing and, like you said; almighty football is so big that other sporting opportunities for teamwork and camaraderie and discipline for men are being decreased in the name of football being so big.
KVSIt’s professional. Billie Jean King and I used to talk about this in the 1970s. They’re professional for God’s sake. I actually feel sorry for and am glad these guys playing college football are protesting as they are real slaves. I used to call them ‘athletic slaves.’ They are playing free for a university and getting a scholarship, but in the meantime the university, coaches and administration are making millions of dollars. What if they get injured? Bye! No education – you’re out of here! Go sell used cars or something.
GCR:Back to the positive, it’s amazing to think that in ten years women made strides from running being unusual in the early 1970s to there being a women’s marathon included in the 1984 Olympics. How did the efforts of runners such as Gayle Barron, Jacqueline Hansen and you combined with the initial backing of Dr. Ernst von Aaken and later support of IAAF President Adriaan Paulen and IOC President Lord Killanin and the addition of corporate funding with the Avon International Marathon get the train on the right track and make inclusion of a women’s Olympic marathon a reality?
KVSAbsolutely Ernst von Aaken was incredibly important because he provided not only the first opportunities by staging a women’s marathon but he had medical evidence. He was a big proponent of saying that women had natural capacities for endurance and stamina. He was quite phenomenal. It was probably his inspiration that helped me in going to Avon with my proposal for creating a women’s marathon in a big way, to take it global and to use it to get the women’s marathon into the Olympic Games. That’s exactly what we did. You weren’t allowed to get prize money in those days, so we created this circuit of races, where you could get points and win your way up to other races – from local to national to global championships. Women who were good runners and developing runners who were always finishing in third or fourth place could still find their way to the global championships and compete against the best. We knew that all you needed was an opportunity to try. If nobody gives you the wherewithal to get to the starting line you won’t be able to perform. We figured out a way of getting as many women as possible on the starting line. We moved that global championship around to different and were very pioneering. For instance the Avon marathon in 1980 in London was actually the precursor for what is now the London Marathon. Most people don’t know that, but Chris Brasher wanted to have a London Marathon. The leader of the Greater London Council and I were in a meeting and I said, ‘Listen, we want this women’s marathon in downtown London, we have the route. He said let’s do it and I’d like to see us someday have a race as big as the New York City Marathon. And so that was the design model.
GCR:How important was that 1980 Avon London Marathon in the global movement for the women’s Olympic Marathon?
KVSThat was the race that brought together the required countries and continents for an Olympic decision. We worked very, very hard to get enough countries there. In those days for the Los Angeles Olympics, to get an event into the Olympic Games I was told you had to have twenty-four countries and three continents. We had at that race twenty-seven countries and five continents. And so we had that and Dr. von Aaken and David Martin’s statistics on women’s capabilities so we could present the medical data. We also had Joan Benoit’s and Grete Waitz’ fabulous performances. We compiled this and took it to the International Olympic Committee first at the Moscow Games which the U.S. had boycotted. They said there wasn’t enough medical evidence. I put together a report for the members of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing committee because they were at the meeting as well. Tony Daily, the head of Medical, held the report up and said we had the medical evidence that the marathon was probably more suited for women than the 100 meters. They just tabled the decision and made the decision at a Board meeting in Los Angeles the following February. To me that was one of the greatest moments in women’s sports because I knew that the world was going to change when the marathon was in the Olympic Games. Absolutely.
GCR:How has the introduction of the women’s marathon into the Olympic Games impacted the world on a larger scale?
KVSIt opened the door for many other women’s events and helped increase the number of women participants in all sports. Additionally, the women’s marathon opened doors for new Olympic events for both men and women. Maybe most importantly, people around the world have been inspired by the women’s Olympic marathon and now embrace a healthy and productive running lifestyle.
GCR:As an early ambassador of women’s running, you have been joined through the years by Joan Benoit Samuelson, Deena Kastor and now Shalane Flanagan, even though she is still competing as our top current U.S. women’s marathon runner. Is it exciting to see new women runners coming along as the years go by who provide inspiration to girls in their teens that are looking for role models?
KVSOh it’s fantastic, of course – absolutely. All of these women are especially fantastic and I’ll tell you why. Everyone knows a marathon is a long way. You have a trained eye and I have a trained eye, but if we sit in a stadium I dare you to tell me the difference between 400 meters that is run in 56 seconds or 51 seconds. You can’t really see it that well. Everybody knows that 26 miles or 42 kilometers is a long way. They all have drove a car or rode a bike or walked that long. In poor countries they’ve rode a donkey or carried water that far. They know that if a woman is running and is running fast it is awesome. And so, because these women due to publicity are glamorous and articulate and embody this tremendous spirt that women can do anything, I am thrilled with these women and am thrilled with their capacity to inspire others.
GCR:Let’s get your opinion on a number of marathon training elements since you have been consumed in the sport of running and you know what so many others do. First, what range of mileage is typically appropriate for a competitive versus participatory marathoner?
KVSI think you can run a marathon on twenty-five miles a week. George Sheehan used to laugh about it as he used to run an hour on Wednesday and a marathon on Sunday. I have another friend who does nothing but run a marathon every Sunday. She’s one of these marathon maniacs – that’s all she does. She isn’t fast, she walks a lot and she doesn’t care. Once you’ve done it you can keep on doing it. Look at all the millions of Kenyan school children who may do up to a marathon every day because they have to run to school and home again, back and forth. The distance in and of itself is not that overwhelming in terms of just doing it if you are willing to just plod away. The human capacity is there. If you’re going to try and get your time down, you’re going to have to train more and train faster. I would think that anyone who is going to run under 3:30 is going to have to run 40 to 50 miles a week. To get under three hours you may need to run 50 to 60 miles a week. And to run sub-2:30 you’re going to have to run close to 80 miles a week at least and I think you’re going to have to be doing some incredible quality work. Each of those jumps in times is going to require an addition of quality work. If you’re just going to jog 40 miles a week at 11 minute mile pace, you’re not going to break 3:30.
GCR:How important is running on soft surfaces and what mix of soft surface running and road running should be implemented for distance runners, even when training primarily for road races?
KVSThat is a real individual question as it depends on an individual runner’s body. I’m 68 years old now and I try to do all my running on a dirt trail or road. There will be gravel, loose stones or roots, but I’m trying to keep off the roads. The reality is that the races are on the roads. I remember in 2011 lining up for the Berlin Marathon and having this sort of shiver of fear as I’d done every bit of training on hard-packed dirt surfaces. And then I looked around at all the Kenyans and said, so did they, it’ll be okay, and it was. When I ran my 2:51 I did everything in training on the road, except for my track workouts which were on tartan or asphalt tracks that were pretty hard surfaces. And I had really flat shoes. But I had a durable body and was really lucky I wasn’t injured. I would say that mixture is good and for the long training runs it is better to get off the road as much as you can and into a better environment on a trail or park if you can. Also, you should keep the surface from cambering. That’s a problem with the slant of the road.
GCR:How important is the mental part of training and racing and developing the ability to endure increasing levels of discomfort, to put it out of your mind, to focus on the positive or arm and leg turnover versus tiredness?
KVSEven now when I come in from a run, like yesterday for instance when it had gotten cold and dark, I wanted to get right into the shower rather than doing any of my stretches. But after the shower I told myself to get out my mat, get on the floor and to do my stretches, pushups and wall squats. Then I was thinking, ‘I’m tired – I’d rather have a beer.’ Then I thought, ‘Am I serious or not serious.’ So, here’s me – running for fifty-five years and I still have to go through this. The point is that when you are training seriously and are increasing your distance and increasing your speed and you have some tough workouts ahead of you, it doesn’t do you well to look too far ahead in your workouts. They are written in your calendar, but you can’t let yourself get overwhelmed by them. Realize that as you progress from five intervals gradually to twenty intervals to revel in the miracle of your body’s ability to take on more and more and more, because it is a miracle. To imagine doing twenty repeats of 400 meters, I could never have imagined that, but soon it became a routine that that was my Thursday night workout. We all thrill at the memory of running our first mile and first 5k and 10k. And then the thinking is, ‘If I’ve run a 10k, can I run a half marathon?’ And we can. You just need to take the joy and think, ‘If I can do 10k I can do 13 miles. If I can do 13, then I can do 15.’ That is kind of my attitude. I think the single hardest thing in training for anybody is getting on your shoes and getting out of the door. Once you’re outside, you’re okay.
GCR:You mentioned your recent Achilles tendon issues and having done a 62 minute run. What is your current running and health regimen in terms of days per week, any biking or swimming, weights, core and the like for all-around fitness and to get back to running more?
KVSI plan on running the Boston Marathon in 2017 as it’s going to be the 50th anniversary of where it all started and I cannot afford to get injured. So, I’m taking a long time to come back after taking off those 18 months due to my Achilles injury. I ran a little bit during those 18 months, but it would get sore and I’d take back off and then start back. Finally, I took six months off completely and then starting last May I ran one minute a day and then it was two minutes and then three. Now, as I mentioned earlier, I’m up to sixty-two minutes of running at a time. Basically, my plan in getting ready for Boston is to pretty much run every day and when the distance gets up I’ll take one day off each week. And I always do a lot of stretching – yoga, Pilates – I do it myself at home. I don’t go to a gym. I do some balance ball and lots and lots of heel dips. I work standing up and work with a two by four under my toes so I do a lot of toe raises all day. My secret weapon is wall squats. I sit against a wall and work on my quads. If my quads are strong I don’t have any knee problems. That’s been a great asset.
GCR:As you prepare for the 2017 Boston Marathon you will join the cream of the crop of hundreds of thousands of runners who complete marathons each year and for many the ‘Holy Grail’ is to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Once a runner has qualified for Boston, what are your main training tips to help race one’s best there and what guidance can you give for race day strategy?
KVSThe Boston Marathon is unique because it’s a mostly downhill course. It’s important you feel great for the first half of the race as you’ll feel like hell for the second half. The important thing is to train downhill. Train uphill certainly, but train down hills and be able to run freely. I tell people to train down hills on long runs with lots of the down hills at the beginning and then lots of up hills at the end. You’ve got to mimic every course. Top pros that race these marathons go to the course and then they need to mimic it in their training. When people come to Boston from Florida I really feel sorry for them.
GCR:Hey, that’s where I live! I’ve run the Boston Marathon twelve times – you must feel sorry for me then!
KVSWell, I don’t know what you do for your hill training. Maybe you crank it up on a treadmill.
GCR:Actually, we have more hills here in central Florida than people realize. I have this one road that is two-and-a-half miles long and it has five hills which each take a minute to two minutes to run up and down. So I just go there and run back and forth twice to get in twenty hills that are all about as long as the hills in the Boston Marathon. So, don’t tell anyone, but we do have hill training in central Florida.
KVSYou see - you take it seriously. Other people qualify for Boston and they think that’s all they have to do. But you don’t if you really want to run it well. But most people who qualify for the Boston Marathon think that they have already done the hard work and this is the reward. So they come for the experience and the trip.
GCR:Tell us a bit about how your 1967 Boston Marathon race number 261 has inspired running clubs, a fitness line and the second ‘261 Women’s Marathon,’ which is just around the corner on March 8, 2015.
KVSI’ve got to tell you something about that number. I didn’t take it, it took me. It totally came out of the blue. All of a sudden I started receiving a plethora of mail, e-mail and photos with people saying that 261 inspires them and makes them fearless. They were always using the word, ‘fearless.’ From this has sprung people wanting to get together and harnessing it is quite challenging. All of this came out of the blue - even the marathon. An old colleague in Spain was putting together a race called the Mediterranean Marathon and he and his agency called and said they wanted to call it the Women’s 261 Marathon. The same thing happened with the clothing line. Nicole deBoom, who is the CEO of Skirt Sports, talked to me about the amazing thing happening with the 261 Marathon and said we have to create a sportswear line. All of these things have been happening, but the most important of all is that it is becoming a global movement. We’re trying to organize it so that women around the world who run can use the fearlessness they feel from running to reach out to other women, to bring them on board, with the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other so they too feel fearless and empowered. That’s it in a nutshell. We’re going to do it through clubs. We’re going to do it through a movement, through ambassadorship programs. It’s going to have to be an extremely comprehensive website, which we have yet to build, because it’s all happening so fast. There may even be another event. It’s very, very exciting.
GCR:It’s amazing that this entire 261 phenomenon grew without you leading it, but because of what you did and what it stands for.
KVSIt’s not something I planned to do at my age – it just happened. I think it’s important to step up, take responsibility for it and to help other women by getting involved. I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished, but if you look at the world, half of the women, or more than half live in terrible situations of poverty, of ignorance, of war. Terrible things are happening. I’m not saying that running is going to change their lives, but I am saying that if they are empowered that they will be able to control the situation more than they do now.
GCR:It’s true that running has empowered a lot of people. Anne Mahlum started ‘Back on My Feet’ to help homeless men to get positive about something. The next thing you know they are running, they’re feeling good and getting rid of negativity. There are a lot of different ways, whether it is with men or women, that running gives people a positive outlook. It is something that empowers them and helps them to move forward in a way that they never thought was possible.
KVSAbsolutely. It’s all about self-esteem and self-belief. It’s really weird, but you know better than anybody that running can do that. And that’s why there are more women than men runners in the United States. It’s not because the want to be competitive. It’s because they get out together and run together and get that feeling of joy and accomplishment that they’ve often never had before. It’s something they are doing. It’s not something that’s happening to them. They are pursuing their own sense of empowerment and it’s just been phenomenal.
GCR:We didn’t touch on too much of your running career. Are there any other marathons or shorter road races that stand out for reasons such as a particularly hard effort, tough competition or a scenic course?
KVSI’ll give you three races. Of course, the Boston Marathon - always. I’ve run it eight times. I’ve had my worst time there and my best time there. That is an event that changed my life. It’s a great race because the streets are narrow and the crowd is always on top of you. It’s just amazing. I’ve done the broadcast of the Boston Marathon for 37 consecutive years – every year it’s been televised which is amazing and a remarkable career too. I always wanted to be a journalist for Boston sports because I never thought that I could be an athlete. To have been and continue to be both is amazing for me.
GCR:The Boston Marathon isn’t a surprise. What’s the second race?
KVSIt is a half marathon that I ran on a game preserve in Kenya - The Safaricom Marathon, which was part of my comeback to being able to run a marathon again. It was so hard because it was at altitude and it was very hot. And I was really nervous because there was a plane overhead to ward off the rhinos and the lions. My husband said to me as I left the starting line, ‘its okay for you to be slow – just don’t be last.’ He thought that person could be eaten by lions. That was a tremendous cultural experience. Africa was like nothing I’ve ever seen. It was a totally mind-opening experience.
GCR:I’ve thought about running a race in that game preserve, so I’m a bit jealous. What is the third race that is dear to your heart?
KVSThe other race, of course, was the 2,500th anniversary of the original marathon and I ran in Athens, Greece. They would not let me run in Athens in 1972. I was there and applied to run and they would allow me, even though I was official at Boston that year. I was very tearful, but wasn’t going to object because I’m not here to be in someone’s face. All I wanted to do was run. I’d been bumming all over Europe particularly to run that race because if there is a spiritual center in my life it has to be Greece and has to be Marathon. To go back then 32 years later in 2014 and to be an invited celebrity and to run in the race was phenomenal. All that sounds wonderful and sparkly, but at 33 kilometers, precisely the point where Paula Radcliffe had her meltdown in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, I sat on the curb and had a meltdown. I didn’t know what had happened but my legs were gone. I’d never had my quads lock before and didn’t know what I was going to do. So, I got up and trudged along and went through the options. When I got over the hill at 34k it was downhill the rest of the way and my quads just unlocked. It was an uphill course all the way to that point, and quite uphill, so to go down the hill and into the stadium to finish I burst into tears. It was the first marathon where I cried. It was an amazing experience.
GCR:Greece is a spiritual running center of your life because of its history, but your husband, Roger Robinson, is right there in the center of your life as an advocate for the sport of running and a top runner over many years. You wrote the book, ’26.2 Marathon Stories,’ together which I have in my running library. How wonderful has it been having Roger beside you, understanding what you do and as a supporter as you both are in this running community together?
KVSIt is absolutely tremendous. We’ve been together for thirty years and I feel like I met him yesterday. He is always interesting, lively and charming, but very realistic. Roger has never bought into this ‘Katherine Switzer adulation thing.’ I’m described as an iconic athlete and he laughs because he knows a lot of it is circumstance in terms of the mythology surrounding a photograph. He lives with me on a daily basis and knows that I don’t like getting up in the morning so he brings me a cup of tea in bed. We work together; we write together, we speak to audiences together. It’s been a fantastic relationship. I had two previous husbands and I always believed in marriage, but I wasn’t really sure it was ever going to be totally wonderful, but now it is. He is totally wonderful in every respect. The other thing is that he inspires me because he is an unbelievable runner who set Masters Records at the Boston and New York City marathons. And even now, if you can imagine – he is seventy-five years old, has a replaced knee and I cannot, if I were in the shape of my life for my age right now, possibly keep up with him. On his replaced knee he can run 51 minutes for 10k and he can run 23 minutes for a 5k – I mean phenomenal. Those are good times even if you don’t have a replaced knee.
GCR:There is constant excitement in your voice when you discuss running topics. Why do you like running so much?
KVSThere are many reasons, but the biggest are because running is simple and only requires a pair of shoes; it is time efficient and convenient and gets a person fit quickly. It reduces stress, puts me in touch with my own thoughts, and helps me be creative.
GCR:What advice can you give to non-runners who wish to begin running?
KVSDon’t dream about it; do it. Make a commitment to go out every day, write it down, and start walking and add small jogs. Get a good pair of shoes from a store where the sales people run, so they will fit you properly. Read! My book Running and Walking for Women over 40 is a great beginner’s book even for men and children. Then, make a goal of running a small 5km race in your neighborhood in about two months’ time. A goal gives you a focus. It will grow from there.
GCR:I know that you have many speaking engagements. When you sum up the major lessons you have learned during your life from taking the plunge as a pioneer of women’s running, the discipline and mental fortitude necessary to race at a high level, your service to others and any adversity you have faced, what is your one minute wrap up of the Katherine Switzer philosophy?
KVSI say that running has given me just about everything that is important in my life. It has given me my career, my creativity, my religion, my environment, my husband, my great love. Most of all it has given me myself. It’s given me my sense of self. Every day it gives me my sense of self.
 Inside Stuff
Hobbies/InterestsI love to cook. I love flowers and gardening. I love films, opera and stage - drama
NicknamesEverybody used to call me ‘Kathy.’ My closest friends called my ‘Switz,’ but you’ve got to be a really good friend to call me ‘Switz’
Favorite movies‘My Life as a Dog’ is probably my favorite movie. You’ve probably never heard of it, but it’s a wonderful, quirky movie. It’s a Swedish film. Also, ‘Chariots of Fire’ which I’ve watched five million times. ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ – I can watch it five million times
Favorite TV showsI don’t watch television. It’s not even connected here in New Zealand. I have it connected in the United States for CNN. I was there for the terrorist attacks on 9/11 in New York and, unfortunately, I had the TV connected and knew what was going on. I don’t have it connected in New Zealand because we have better national radio than TV anyway. I love radio
Favorite music, artist or songsI love anything from Classical to Rock ‘n Roll. Mozart is absolutely my favorite. I love Puccini operas. I’m still crazy about the Eagles
Favorite books‘Middlemarch’ by George Elliott. Anything by Ernest Hemingway. ‘Will and Catherine.’ There is so much good literature
First carMy first car was a gold 1957 Plymouth convertible with those great big tail fins. My dad gave that car to my brother and me and we had more fun with that car than a barrel of monkeys. Oh my God – it was hilarious. It was wonderful
Current carA twelve year old Honda Civic
First JobI worked as the candy girl in a hospital. I went around wearing a little blue apron and sold candy and things to the patients
FamilyMy mom and dad were so positive and so inspirational and so motivational and pushed me in such a positive way. They pushed me hard, but they pushed me in a positive way. I always wanted to do something. It was always a contest. ‘I’ll bet you can do this, I know you can do this, sweetie. You’re great. You can do anything.’ I should have been the damn President of the United States – my parents were so positive. Honestly, they taught me a lot. I tell this in every speech I give – I believe it is a moral imperative to inspire – to somehow positively influence a kid, because if they have that little sense of belief in themselves, they can do anything. I have a wonderful older brother, Warren, who is three years older than me. We are totally different politically. We are the best of friends and tight as ticks. I would do anything for him and he would do anything for me. I’m really, really lucky in the family department
PetsWe grew up with a pair of Irish Setters. The female was always calm because she was always pregnant. The male was all over the place. They were full of energy. People always laugh that I’m like an Irish Setter because I’ve got crazy, reddish hair and am a little spastic, all over the place – maybe I got it from the dogs – I don’t know. We grew up as kids and were in the puppy business. When my dad went off in the Korean War my mom was raising puppies all the time so it was quite a lucrative business. Now we don’t have pets because we live in two countries and can’t take them back and forth. But wherever we go, whoever has cats in our neighborhood, they always come to us and we always have what we call rent-a-cats. The neighbors know that when we come home the cats come and stay with us
Favorite breakfastMy favorite breakfast is a French croissant and café lait. But I know that isn’t what I should have, so my current breakfast is either oat muffins or muesli and lots and lots of fresh fruit and yogurt
Favorite mealIt’s always pasta with anything on top. It can be with fresh vegetables or seafood or pasta Bourbonnais
Favorite beveragesA glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. I always get a headache, but it doesn’t matter
First running memoryI was about eight years old at the country fair. There was a race and I knew I could win it. They kind of had this area that was somewhat roped off. I ran in the roped off area and some other girls ran inside completely and they won. I was really annoyed
Running heroesMy first athletic hero was Margo Fontaine, the ballerina, because she did something very, very, very difficult and made it beautiful. She was really able to perform powerful and strong in many, many ways. My first running hero was Emil Zatopek. I was crazy about Emil Zatopek
Greatest running momentThe 2:51 performance at the Boston Marathon. It was a perfect race
Worst running momentIt was one of my best running moments in reverse – getting attacked in the Boston Marathon. At the time it was the worst, but sometimes the worst things in your life later become the best things in your life
Childhood dreamsI wanted to be an archaeologist
Embarrassing momentOne of the most embarrassing moments was when I was introduced to make a speech. I wanted to show how lively and fit I was. I bounded up the stairs to the speaking platform and went splat (laughing) on the stage
Favorite places to travelI’m really lucky that I live in two places where I would want to travel. We worked on making that happen. The Hudson Valley of New York is where I live in the United States and the rest of the year we are in New Zealand. Both are paradise for environment, travel and hiking. Outside of the places I live, I would say Italy. I love Italy