This was apparently widely accepted medical advice in 1976. That was the year Kathrine Switzer ran the Boston marathon with a number. Now, the Boston Marathon isn’t just any race… it is the world’s oldest annual marathon. It began in 1897 and had always been a men’s only race. Roberta Blib ran covertly ten years earlier in 1966 and served as an inspiration for Katherine. Each year a handful of women ran unofficially.
Since she signed up up as K. V. Switzer she was given a number. During the race one of organizers tried to physically pull her out of the race. Fortunately Katherine’s boyfriend was a linebacker and ran interference for her. This whole scuffle happened right in front of the news trucks, so we have pictures! It wasn’t until 1972 – 5 years later – that the Boston Marathon was officially opened to women.
I’m so glad that I had never even considered that physical activity might be bad for my health. That news would have really interfered with my tomboy childhood! For the record uterine prolapse (the medical term for a woman’s uterus “falling out”) happens less often in women who exercise frequently.
Women still have a long way to go in sports, but we’re certainly moving in the right direction.