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Switzer to receive USATF Pioneer Award at 2017 Black Tie & Sneakers Gala


NEW YORK – One of the most iconic figures in women’s sports, Kathrine V. Switzer, will be among the headline honorees at USATF’s Black Tie & Sneakers Gala on November 2 at the Armory Track & Field Center in Upper Manhattan. Switzer will receive USATF’s Pioneer Award in honor of her groundbreaking, lifelong work in women’s running.


Switzer etched her name in history when she became the first woman to officially complete the Boston Marathon in 1967, but she has done anything but slow down in the ensuing 50 years. With an indelible record as a champion runner, founder of women’s road races, author, activist, television commentator, and philanthropist, she has been among the most consistently visible and high-profile advocates for women’s sports over the last half-century.


The native New Yorker won the 1974 New York City Marathon, which was then held entirely in Central Park.  On November 5, she will once again compete in the race.


“I am so honored to be given this award, and I accept it on half of the millions of women who have had their lives so wonderfully enhanced by running,” said Switzer, who in April also ran the Boston Marathon in celebration of the 50th anniversary of her history-making feat. “Helping make that happen has been the greatest gratification of my life. It’s especially sweet to be running the TCS NYC Marathon the year I receive this award. It’s the first time I will be running though the five boroughs!”


“In a sport full of legends, Kathrine Switzer holds a unique place in running history,” said USATF CEO Max Siegel. “The 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.”


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 – who registered for the race using only her first initial – was physically attacked by co-race director Jock Semple. Photos from the Semple’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 women’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 women’s running when she created the Avon International Running Circuit, a worldwide series of women’s races that grew to 400 events in 27 countries.  By spurring the rapid growth in women’s running, Switzer was pivotal in the successful effort to add the women’s marathon to the Olympic Games in 1984 in Los Angeles. Still active as a television personality for road racing events, Switzer’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 Women’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 Runner’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, USATF’s Black Tie & Sneakers Gala is a red-carpet evening held at the Armory Track & Field Center in New York City’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.


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