Fighting for equality in sports – the marathon women

The world-famous Boston Marathon was touched by scandal in 1967 when for the first time in its history, a woman officially entered the race.

A race official tried to disqualify Kathrine Switzer, a 20-year-old student, by tearing the qualification number off her shirt. But Switzer’s boyfriend intervened, and she was able to finish the race — the first woman to do so officially. The incident became a symbol of women’s struggle for equality in sport but still, women were not officially allowed to compete in the Boston Marathon until 1972. They were said to be physically incapable of completing the 42-kilometer race.

After the 1967 race, Switzer began her campaign to open marathons to female runners — and became an inspiration for women in sports. At about the same time, German sports physician Ernst van Aaken conducted studies that indicated that women actually had more athletic endurance than men and then organized Germany’s first marathons for women, a minor sporting revolution at the time. Finally in 1984, a major battle for equality was finally won: at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, the women’s marathon became an Olympic event for the first time.

In this documentary, Journalist Ole Zeisler conducts interviews with women’s marathon pioneers in both the United States and Germany and outlines their struggle for the right to compete.

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