Port Washington, New York — Mancos native Rosy (Whipple) Spraker will run the Boston Marathon next month with running legend Kathrine Switzer, 50 years after Switzer became the first woman to run as a registered runner in the renowned event.
More than 100 other runners representing 20 countries will join Switzer at this year’s marathon on April 17. The team represents 261 Fearless, Inc., Switzer’s new nonprofit that empowers women around the world through a social running community, according to a news release.
Switzer, now 70, had a rough start in the 1967 Boston Marathon when an angry race director tried to pull off her bib number — 261 — and throw her out of the race because the event was for men only. The incident ignited the women’s running boom, the release states.
Spraker, who now lives in Lorton, Virginia, has run the Boston Marathon 10 consecutive times. Her goal is to run the marathon 15 more years for a total of 25 consecutive times, she said.
“Kathrine not only broke the glass starting line, but she continued to champion the cause of women’s running for the next 50 years,” Spraker said in the release. “With the money our team is raising, we will create non-competitive running clubs, coaches’ education and communication programs in local communities, whether that is in Massachusetts or Albania. We’re asking women everywhere to start a club and join our empowering movement.”
Spraker became friends with Switzer after meeting her at the Boston Marathon in 2007, Spraker said. 261 Fearless connects local club chapters to the national group, and Spraker has become an ambassador for a local group in Lorton, she said.
“It’s for women to get together and run for fun,” she said.
The seven daughters and three sons of the Whipple family grew up running on trails in the San Juan National Forest near Mancos, Spraker said.
The kids also participated in Mancos school sports. Spraker and another girl went out for the boys basketball team in seventh grade, because there was not a girls team at that time, she said. Coaches didn’t let the girls compete with the boys in the conference season, but it led to the creation of an intramural girls team, Spraker said.
She enjoys returning to Southwest Colorado each July for Mancos Days to run in the festival’s 5K event, Spraker said. Her mother, Shirley Whipple, previously was honored as a Mancos Days Queen, she said.
“It’s always fun to come home and run the trails in Mancos,” Spraker said.
Cathy Yost and Sharlott Thomas, two of Spraker’s sisters, help organize the Mancos Girls on the Run club, which includes about 40 third- through eighth-grade girls from the area. Spraker said she’s inspired by the group and hopes the girls continue.
“Breaking new ground for girls has always been my passion,” she said. “The empowerment you get through running will give you confidence to be fearless in other aspects of your lives.”
In 1972, five years after Switzer was almost thrown out of the race, the Boston Athletics Association welcomed women as official Boston Marathon competitors, becoming the first major marathon to do so, the release states. This year, the Boston Athletic Association has continued its commitment to women’s running by inviting the 261 Fearless team to participate the marathon.
“There is only one 50th anniversary in our lives and this is a race that changed all of us,” Switzer said in the release. “I’m training hard, and I’m buoyed by the spirit of this wonderful team. But this race is not going to be about finishing time; it’s about celebration, inclusion and gratitude. I’m running to say thanks to a race, a city, and thousands of wonderful people who have done so much to give strength and self-esteem to women.”
For more information about 261 Fearless, Inc. visit www.261fearless.org.