Kathrine Switzer is a legend, receiving letters and photos from women around the world, some revealing their “261” tattoos, reports Michele Gorman — the number Switzer wore during her first Boston Marathon 50 years ago. Switzer was also the first woman to officially run the 26.2-mile race in the United States.
“What they were really telling me was, ‘That number makes me feel fearless,’” Switzer told Newsweek. “Because ‘I, too, relate to a story about me being told that I’m not welcome or I’m not good enough or I can’t do it.’”
At the time, Switzer was a 20-year-old journalism student at Syracuse University, where she trained with the men’s cross-country team although she couldn’t officially join it. When she registered for the 71st Boston Marathon in 1967, writes Gorman, she signed her name as “K. V. Switzer” on the application and paid the $2 entry fee.
This year, Switzer, who is now 70, “will pin on bib number 261 and return 50 years later to the starting line of the women’s running revolution,” says Gorman, this time “leading a team of runners from her nonprofit, 261 Fearless, Inc.”