â€śIn a sport full of legends, Kathrine Switzer holds a unique place in running history,â€ť said USATF CEO Max Siegel. â€śThe USATF Pioneer Award salutes Kathrine for the unparalleled way she has worked to improve and expand our sport on many different platforms. She inspired generations of runners and continues to do so.â€ť
Star on and off the roads
Switzer famously gained international notoriety when she officially entered and successfully completed the 1967 Boston Marathon, an event that at the time allowed only men to compete. Wearing bib #261 and running in heavy grey sweats, Switzer â€“ who registered for the race using only her first initial â€“ was physically attacked by co-race director Jock Semple. Photos from the Sempleâ€™s attack became global news, inspiring Switzer to not just finish the race but to become the best runner she could be. She went on to complete the race, launching a career that achieved global success on every level.
Although she is most remembered for that initial pioneering act of social defiance and gender equity, Switzer was among the top runners of her generation. She ran Boston eight times, posting a best of 2:51:37 in the 1975 Boston Marathon, which at the time was the #6 womenâ€™s marathon performance in the world. When she won the 1974 New York City Marathon in 3:07:29, Switzer posted a record, 27:14 margin of victory, and she remains the last New York woman to win her hometown marathon.
In 1977, her focus shifted from competition to leading the expansion of womenâ€™s running when she created the Avon International Running Circuit, a worldwide series of womenâ€™s races that grew to 400 events in 27 countries. By spurring the rapid growth in womenâ€™s running, Switzer was pivotal in the successful effort to add the womenâ€™s marathon to the Olympic Games in 1984 in Los Angeles. Still active as a television personality for road racing events, Switzerâ€™s commentaries have won several Emmy Awards and spanned decades. Her most historic TV work was her commentary for the 1984 Olympic Marathon, won by American Joan Benoit Samuelson.
A journalism major at Syracuse University, Switzer is the author of two books, Running and Walking for Women Over 40 (1997) and her memoir, Marathon Woman (2007), which won the Billie Award for journalism. With her 1967 Boston Marathon bib number serving as its namesake, Switzer in 2015 created 261 Fearless, a nonprofit charity focused on uniting and empowering women through running clubs, social running events, and educational and communication opportunities.
Switzer has received countless honors in her career, including being inducted into the National Distance Running Hall of Fame, National Womenâ€™s Hall of Fame, New York Road Runners Hall of Fame, and being named a Visionary of the Century, Hero of Running and Runner of the Decade (1966-76) by Runnerâ€™s World Magazine.
Switzer will join Team USATF Olympic medalists and World Champions, as well as previously announced Olympic legend Carl Lewis, singer V. Bozeman and celebrity DJ D-Nice as headliners for the evening. The recently announced USATF National Hall of Fame Class of 2017 will be honored and inducted during the red carpet event; and top music, Hollywood and TV celebrities will take part in the evening as well.
About USATF Black Tie & Sneakers Gala
Now in its third year, USATFâ€™s Black Tie & Sneakers Gala is a red-carpet evening held at the Armory Track & Field Center in New York Cityâ€™s Washington Heights neighborhood. The Gala includes the induction of the National Track & Field Hall of Fame Class of 2017, with legendary athletes, business executives, current USATF stars and celebrities from sports and entertainment on hand for an opening reception, dinner, the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and after party. Celebrities such as Teyana Taylor, Machine Gun Kelly, Jacob Latimore, Annie Ilonzeh and more will join in the celebration. Guests walk the red carpet in festive attire and sneakers, giving the night a USATF twist on athletic elegance and excellence.
Tickets on sale