Excerpt: "This October, in Oregon’s chilly pre-dawn, I will line up with nearly 10,000 other runners for the start of the Portland Marathon. Over half of the participants will be women, reflecting a trend occurring nationwide: more and more women have taken up long-distance running, with entries for the marathon—the marquee event in running —across the country drawing almost as many women as men.
A little over forty years ago, Katherine Switzer faced a far different running landscape. Entering the lauded Boston Marathon under the name K.V. Switzer, she was famously tackled by race director Jock Semple four miles into the competition; he reportedly said, “Get the hell out of my race,” and tried to grab for her race numbers. Switzer’s boyfriend at the time pushed Semple away, and she was able to keep running to the finish line. In 1967, Switzer was the first woman to complete the Boston Marathon despite Semple’s attempt to stop her because she was “a girl.”
Semple’s endeavor to remove Switzer from the marathon, while overly aggressive, only reflected our culture’s prevailing ethos about women and sport. The “weaker sex” was not inclined toward athletics, people argued, and it was insane to let women do something that might damage their bodies. Some also believed long distance running would be especially detrimental; it was rumored that a woman competing in the marathon risked having her uterus fall out."
Mock, Melanie Springer, "Celebrating Title IX As God’s Good Gift" (2010). Faculty Publications - Department of English. 82.