Threat, terror, the specter of violence large and small was not introduced to Boston’s marathon last year. As Katherine Switzer—who in 1967, before women were allowed in the race, famously registered and ran under the name K. V. Switzer—says, “America’s a very peculiar place.” The marathon’s crowds have reflected the culture’s moods—antiwar, pro-war, grievance, celebration—as much as any public gathering. Switzer ran eight Bostons, and early on the antifeminist crowd came out in force.
“I harbored this really bad fantasy, especially when I got tired, that there are many nutcases in our country, and some guy’s going to be up there with a gun, a sniper, and he’s going to pick me out of the race and shoot me,” says Switzer, now a race commentator for WBZ-TV. “Especially coming down to the finish line.”