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NORMAL — A runner who became a catalyst for women's equality in sports will be in Normal on April 14 to help women, men and children take steps to improve their health.

Kathrine Switzer — who, in 1967, became the first woman to officially enter and run in the Boston Marathon — will be the keynote speaker at the 17th annual Women's Health Night at Illinois State University's Bone Student Center.

Before her presentation, she is inviting people to join her on a 1.5-mile fun run.

Her first Boston Marathon created worldwide notoriety when a race official, during the event, tried unsuccessfully to forcibly remove her from the competition. The photo of the confrontation became one of Time-Life's "100 Photos that Changed the World."

"Our Women's Health Night theme this year is 'Challenge Yourself,'" said Sarah Gliege, development and events manager for Illinois Heart & Lung Foundation, which presents the event. "We felt that Kathrine fit in with the vision of Women's Health Night because she has been an advocate for women's health who helped to open sports opportunities for women."

The fun run embraces the message that fitness can benefit everyone's physical, mental and emotional health, Gliege said Thursday.

After the 1967 marathon, Switzer, who had registered for that race as "K.V. Switzer," and other women runners lobbied the Amateur Athletic Union and women officially were allowed to run in the Boston Marathon beginning in 1972. Switzer won the New York City Marathon in 1974 and has run 39 marathons.

Through her Avon Racing Series — which has conducted women-only races in 27 countries — Switzer has helped to empower women worldwide to run, which resulted in a women's marathon being added to the Olympic games in 1984.

Switzer, 68, also is an Emmy Award-winning television commentator, has written three books and was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 2011.

"We try to show people simple steps to improve their health," said foundation Executive Director Kathi Franklin. "Because she took a big step, so can we."


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