Boston, MA (April 2, 2018) - Building on the momentum of founder Kathrine Switzer’s 50th anniversary run last year, 47 runners are expected to toe the start line for the 122nd Boston Marathon on April 16, seeking to raise funds toward advancing the mission of 261 Fearless to empower women around the world through running.
"When I crossed that Boston Marathon finish line last year 50 years after the first time, I was overwhelmed with gratitude," said Switzer, who in 1967 became the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon. "Certainly for the good health that has allowed me to keep running all these years, but mostly to the many women who ran with me for Team 261 Fearless who will carry forward the message of empowerment for the next 50 years. The moment I finished that race I felt I had passed the torch to this next generation, and I am confident they—with the continued support of adidas and the Boston Athletic Association—will make those breathtaking positive changes on a global scale that we have long dreamed of achieving."
Established in 2015, 261 Fearless Inc. is a global non-profit organization founded by Switzer that uses running as a vehicle to empower and unite women through the creation of local running clubs, education programs, communication platforms, and social running events. Breaking down the barriers of geography, 261 Fearless—named after Switzer’s bib number in that game-changing race—aims to create a global community for women runners of all abilities to support, encourage, and inspire each other toward a positive sense of self and fearlessness.
"Thanks to Kathrine’s courageous run 51 years ago, the door to running first swung open for many women in the United States," said Edith Zuschmann, CEO of the non-profit. "Boston is where it all began and will always be a touchstone for women’s empowerment, but the world is where it needs to go now."
With that in mind, and recognizing the role of the Boston Marathon in both Switzer’s career and the history of women’s running, 261 Fearless recently named Joann Flaminio as the first global 261 Fearless Advocate. In 2011, Flaminio became the first woman president of the Boston Athletic Association in its 123-year history and served for seven years. She will promote the mission of 261 Fearless around the world.
Already, there are 18 clubs on three continents. Three clubs - in Norwell, Hopkinton, and Boston - are based in Massachusetts, the home of a dozen Team 261 Fearless runners: Nicole Boussy, Pembroke; Amanda Dole, Abington; Gilda Doria, Boston; Sherri Dunwell, Saugus; Liza MacEachern, Boston; Katrina McKee, Medford; Monica Mishra, Brighton; Linda Montoya, Norwell; Judith Neufeld, Somerville; Kelly Nummelin, Boston; Elizabeth Perrone, Shrewsbury; and Cynthia Smith, Acton.
Runners on Team 261 Fearless in this year’s Boston Marathon represent six countries - Australia, Canada, China, India, Malaysia and the U.S.- and 21 states. As well as supporting the existing 261 clubs, funds raised in Boston will also go toward training additional coaches and club directors as they launch new 261 clubs around the world.
Participating in the Boston Marathon is the second major initiative of 261 Fearless in Boston this year, after
it hosted an event to mark International Women’s Day on March 8 that featured, among others, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley.
For more information about the organization, visit 261Fearless.org.
About 261 Fearless, Inc.
261 Fearless, Inc. is a global non-profit organization founded by pioneer runner, Kathrine Switzer. 261 Fearless uses running as a vehicle to empower and unite women globally through the creation of local 261 running clubs, education opportunities, communication platforms, merchandising and events. Through these networking opportunities, 261 Fearless breaks down the barriers of geography and creates a global community for women runners of all abilities to support and talk to each other, encouraging healthy living and a positive sense of self and fearlessness. For more information please visit, www.261fearless.org.
261 and 261 Fearless are trademark-protected brands, with registrations in the United States and throughout the world. Any use of these brands without the express written authorization from 261 Fearless, Inc. for each such use is strictly prohibited.
Every runner on Team 261 Fearless in this year’s Boston Marathon has a story about the determination and fearlessness that propels them toward the start line on April 16. Here are four of them.
Fort Mill, South Carolina
In 2013, Demi - running for Dream Big, which empowers girls through sports and physical activities - was just a few yards from the Boston Marathon finish line when the first bomb went off. Although battling PTSD, she returned to run in 2014; still waking up a few times a week in distress, she will nonetheless be on the start line again this year, on the fifth anniversary of the tragedy. Why return again? “We have such potential to make positive change together through 261 Fearless, and a "movement" of women who are already empowered by running,” said Demi. “I have two daughters, and I see the news every day. We're in an era where women are learning their power, and we finally have a voice and a platform. There is so much work to be done for us, and for the next generation, in terms of empowerment. I was lucky to grow up with some trailblazing women in my family, like my grandmother—who was one of the first female Marines in WWII. I'm inspired to be the same for the next generation of women.”
When they were growing up, Caroline’s father always made sure that she and her sister had the same opportunities as their brothers, especially when it came to sports. About 10 years ago, Bill Keating chaired a committee to retroactively award varsity letters to women at the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University who competed in sports prior to Title IX. Caroline ran her first marathon, in 2008, with her father, who immediately challenged her to quality for Boston. In August 2016, Bill was diagnosed with brain cancer, and a few weeks later Caroline was devastated when she again fell short of a qualifier. She vowed to qualify the next year at their hometown race, with him there cheering her on. But five weeks before the race, Bill passed away. On May 7, 2017, Caroline ran the Flying Pig Marathon and crossed the finish line in 3:32:53 – qualifying for Boston by more than two minutes. “Boston was something I wanted to do for my dad, and I can’t think of a better way to honor him than to continue his pursuit of woman’s sports,” says Caroline. “The fact that I get to run this historical race while empowering other female runners is truly a blessing.”
While in the early stages of training for the 2016 TCS New York City Marathon, Lori was hit by a truck. In a coma for five days, she awoke to a head injury along with broken bones in her back, wrist, and pelvis. Despite being unable to even walk seven months before the race, and facing months of physical, occupational and cognitive therapy, she still vowed to run New York that year—and did, finishing in a remarkable 5:37:54. Then last year, she ran the Boston Marathon on the first anniversary of the accident. Lori, who has admired Kathrine Switzer since childhood, is running with 261 Fearless as an inspiration to her students, to illustrate the importance of setting seemingly impossible goals and then attaining them through “work ethic, perseverance, and never giving up. I want to run to encourage my students to be fearless no matter what obstacles they face.”
Molly didn’t begin running until she was 50, but almost immediately stepped out of her comfort zone to run Marathon des Sables, 150 miles across the Sahara Desert. “I realized that when you choose to tap into your mental strength, consistently train and focus on persistence you become fearless and there is nothing that you can’t accomplish,” she said. Molly is the first American woman to run in the La Ultra—The High, 138 miles nonstop in the Himalayas, which includes two mountain passes at 18,000 feet and took her 58 hours. She has competed in more than 70 ultramarathons around the world, including the Badwater Ultramarathon,135 miles nonstop from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney. “Running 261 Boston represents everything I have worked for over the last 10 years, which is empowering women to walk and run for health and adventure,” said Molly, who launched an adventure race-management company after she discovered running.
If you’re interested in speaking with any of these women, please contact Barbara Huebner at BarbaraJHuebner@Gmail.com, for 261 Fearless.