Saturday, August 11, 2012
Katherine Switzer,Bobbi Gibb and Being Truthful
It's funny how sometimes you think you know everything about an event and then you later find out that you really didn't.This happened to me recently and I'd be willing to bet that most of you weren't aware of what I discovered either.
I begin by asking this question,who was the first woman to run in the Boston marathon? I'm sure most of you would answer as I did, it was Katherine Switzer. We know this because Katherine herself has said so over the years and the media has regularly referenced her running Boston as a landmark event in women's sports as well as the feminist movement.Who hasn't seen the photo of Boston marathon official Jock Semple trying to pull Katherine from the 1967 Boston marathon? Switzer has had a high profile and lucrative career as a result of the perception that she was the first woman to run the most historic marathon in America.
The reality is,is that she wasn't and she has been less than honest about her place in running history.
Before I tell you how I came to know the truth,let me ask you this,whenever you've seen Switzer introduced on television, she's described as the first woman to run Boston,have you ever seen her deny it,or attempt to clarify that remark? I never have.
Recently I was on Bill Rodger's website called the Bill Rodgers Running Center.As I was looking at the front page,I scrolled down the left side and saw some interesting things to access,one was entitled,An Interview. I clicked on it and it took me to a lengthy and most interesting interview with Bobbi Gibb. I would be willing to bet that most of you probably don't know who Bobbi Gibb is, I didn't. Well,in 1996,on the 100th anniversary of the Boston Marathon, Bobbi Gibb was officially recognized as the first woman to ever run the Boston Marathon and as the three time women's winner in 1966,1967 and 1968.
What,1966? I thought Katherine Switzer was the first woman in 1967? On Gibb's suggestion to readers I went to Katherine's website and her Wikipedia entry,it was there that I read something most interesting.Switzer now describes herself as the first numbered female entry at Boston.That certainly is a different portrayal of her participation than what I've heard since 1967.It's been reported for ages that Switzer got a race number by sending in an application with the name K.V. Switzer. In the interview Bobbi reminded me of something I had forgotten: "In those days the men had to submit a certificate from their doctor and take a pre-race physical as well as submit the application." Other reports that Switzer got a race number from a male friend are more accurate.Gibb said she had written in for an application to run Boston in 1966 but had gotten no response so she then hid herself till the start of the race. She goes on to say that in his book,Call Me Jock,Semple had seen her but didn't attempt to stop her because she "hadn't cheated to get an illegal number." Gibb said that Semple felt that with Switzer ".....he had been tricked. More importantly,under the rules of the A.A.U., if a race allows an unsanctioned or unqualified runner,it can lose accreditation and that would invalidate all the running times of the qualified runners." Hence, we have his trying to pull her from the race and his unfair admission to the Hall of Running Infamy with the likes of Rosie Ruiz and Stan Cottrell. I say this to you younger readers, it was a far different and more stringent racing scene back then than it is now.
The logical question is,what is the purpose of describing yourself as the first numbered entry at the Boston marathon when you were deceptive in obtaining that number? Does that make your portrayal as the first woman to ever run Boston correct and okay?
My purpose here is not to trash Katherine Switzer but to right a wrong and in some small way give recognition to the rightful person, Bobbi Gibb. I find it interesting that on Rodger's site,the man known as Boston Billy, has this interview available.His attempt to also set the record straight? I can't encourage you enough to go and read this interview. Bobbi Gibb is a talented and fascinating person.
Years ago the running world was outraged when Rosie Ruiz cheated and was initially declared the winner of the 1980 Boston marathon.My question is this,when you present yourself as something you aren't you are being untruthful,are there degrees of being honest or truthful? Are some degrees of deception okay while others are not?