Pictured left to right: WBZ Anchor Lisa Hughes, Pat Barrett, Sara Mae Berman, Kathrine Switzer, Valerie Rogosheske, Nina Kuscsik

2012 marked the fortieth anniversary of women being officially allowed to run the Boston Marathon. The 26.2 Foundation, along with the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) and Hopkinton’s 300th Anniversary Celebration Committee, honored the date with a reception for five of the official women entrants in 1972.   First place winner Nina Kuscsik was joined by Kathrine Switzer, Pat Barrett, Sara Mae Berman and Valerie Rogosheske in a panel discussion led by WBZ Anchor Lisa Hughes that explored the changing status of women marathon runners over the past four decades. 

From its inception in 1897 until 1972, the Boston Marathon was restricted by the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) to male runners only. In 1972, Nina Kuscsik won the first officially sanctioned women’s division event in 3:10:26. 

In 1967, five years prior to this change in rules, Kathrine Switzer ran the Boston Marathon as the first woman to do so with race numbers – having registered as "K. V. Switzer" – successfully completing the marathon in roughly four hours and twenty minutes, despite attempts by race official Jock Semple to rip off her numbers and remove her from the race. 

In 1969, 1970 and 1971, Sara Mae Berman was the unofficial winner, setting a course record in 1970 with a finish time of 3:05:07.

Switzer and Berman were not, however, the first women to run the Boston Marathon. In 1966, Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb disproved the AAU’s theory that women were physically incapable of running more than one and one half miles by secretly jumping into the race and concealing her identity with a hooded sweatshirt. Encouragement from onlookers prompted her to reveal herself, garnering media interest as she continued to run. Gibb finished the marathon in 3:21:40, running again the following two years.

In 1996, the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) acknowledged as champions the unofficial women's runners from 1966 to 1971. 

To view a video summary of the event “Celebrating 4 Decades of Women Running Boston”, visit the HCAM website here

To see photos of the event, click here.