Mancos native Rosy Spraker will run her 12th Boston Marathon on April 16 in honor of her mother and to raise awareness for 261 Fearless Inc.
Spraker met the founder of 261 Fearless Inc., Kathrine Switzer, at her first Boston Marathon in 2007.
Switzer founded 261 Fearless Inc. in 2015 after her first Boston Marathon in 1967, when race official Jock Semple attempted to stop her run by ripping off her bib, No. 261. She was the first woman to officially enter and run the Boston Marathon after registering under her initials.
According to Spraker, Semple thought Switzer was attempting to make a mockery out of his race. “He thought, of course, a woman cannot finish a Boston marathon,” Spraker said.
The photo of the incident between Semple and Switzer in 1967 became one of Time-Life’s “100 Photos That Changed the World.”
In 2017, Switzer ran the Boston Marathon for the 50th anniversary of her first race. After developing a friendship when they met, Spraker joined her for the historic run.
“One of the best marathons of my life was running with Kathrine,” Spraker said. “It was kind of my job to be her sidekick during the marathon and make sure she had what she needed.”
Spraker said that after they recorded a Facebook Live video at the 2-mile mark where the incident in 1967 occurred, news spread quickly that Switzer was there and news outlets clamored for interviews with her.
“She did a local CBS interview right there on the side of the road, and even with all those interviews and stops to hug women on the side of the course, she still got a Boston qualifying time for her age group. And I think she took second place for her age group, which was amazing,” Spraker said. “She was so strong.”
Spraker told the story of Switzer leaving behind their GoPro crew after they needed to slow down.
“He said, ‘I’m not feeling too well. Can you tell Kathrine to slow down?’ And I told Katherine, and she goes, ‘I’m not going to slow down, I’m going to go up and qualify here.’ We ended up leaving our guys,” Spraker said while laughing.
The Boston Athletic Associate celebrated her historic moment by retiring bib No. 261 the day after the 2017 race.
According to the news release, Switzer’s organization, 261 Fearless, uses running as a vehicle to empower and unite women globally through the creation of local clubs, education opportunities, communication platforms, merchandising and events.
“The club is more about non-competitive, non-judgmental running,” Spraker said. “A group of women gets together, and we do things like laugh and play games and play tag in the park. And you’re getting this workout, but you don’t really know it because you’re having fun.”
Spraker said the organization focuses on empowering women and building a global community.
“Most women still live in fearful situations,” Spraker said. “She might be in Afghanistan or North Africa, but she might be your next-door neighbor.”
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.
Spraker, who now resides in Lorton, Virginia, is running for 261 Fearless in honor of her mother, Shirley Whipple, who passed away at age 88 on Dec. 29, 2017 at the Mancos Valley Inn. Whipple was the Mancos Days Pioneer Queen in 2013.
Spraker said she comes back two or three times per year and still enjoys running those mountain trails on her visit.
For more information about 261 Fearless, Inc., visit their website.
To donate to 261 Fearless in honor of Shirley Whipple, Spraker’s mother, visit her crowd-funding campaign.
This article was reposted on April 4 to correct the spelling of Switzer’s name, add the founding year of 261 Fearless Inc. and add a link to Spraker’s crowd-funding campaign.