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Meeting pioneer Switzer makes for a winning day

04/20/2014, 12:40am EDT
A winning day in Boston

BOSTON — Finally, the day arrived. After witnessing from afar the twin bombings that shook this city and the running world to its foundation, I was in Boston on Saturday to pick up my race number for the 118th Boston Marathon.

Last year's tragedy and the importance of this race hit home as my race partner McKenzie and I entered the Hynes Convention Center as part of the field of 36,000 runners.

Here, like those who ran last year, we were to pick up the race bib numbers that would officially grant us access to the race.

The check-in process at the expo was extremely well organized — when you are dealing with 36,000 runners who are probably already anxious, it's best to leave nothing to chance.

The exhibition floor was crowded — so much so that you had to push through the crush to see the wares.

Knowing that staying on your feet too long at the expo is a major no-no, I picked my marks: sunglasses, headband, Saucony shoes booth, and SkirtSports.

The first two stops were for race-day necessities; the second two are my favorite and most-used brands. I rounded the corner and fought my way through to the SkirtSports booth.

I looked at the display area and nearly dropped my phone, because standing less than 15 feet from me was none other than Kathrine Switzer — women's running pioneer.

In my zeal to get her picture, I knocked into a woman who had just visited the Post cereal booth, and I spilled her entire container of Fruity Pebbles all over the exhibition floor.

Normally I'd be mortified, but this was K.V. SWITZER.

Women have only officially been able to run the Boston Marathon since 1972.

Switzer, however, registered for the race in 1967 under the name K.V. Switzer, not out of intentional deception, but because that's how she signs her name.

Despite nearly being tackled by the race director in his quest to keep a woman out of "his race," Switzer evaded his attempt and became the first woman to finish with race numbers on. She's a hero in the sport and, amazingly, was standing right in front of me.

I'll be thinking of her barrier-breaking performance when McKenzie and I toe the line in Hopkinton on Marathon Monday and run down the road that once was not open to us.

Now it seems like everybody runs. Now, everybody can.

That's what's brilliant about this year's Boston Marathon — everyone is united in running, to spread a message that we will not knuckle under to fear.

As Switzer said, "Quite simply, I believe that this Boston Marathon will be the race of the century. ... In choosing the Boston Marathon for their photo op, the terrorists did the opposite of terrorizing — they united people, they created solidarity, and they showed the marathoner to be the person we runners always knew they were: determined, unstoppable, and fearless."

Contact Victoria Dugger

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