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Tips From The Top: One On One With Kathrine Switzer

I spoke to Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon, about her journey and best advice

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 16: Katherine Switzer, the first official woman Boston Marathon runner, is introduced before throwing out a ceremonial first pitch before a game between the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays on April 16, 2017 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Katherine Switzer
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 16: Katherine Switzer, the first official woman Boston Marathon runner, is introduced before throwing out a ceremonial first pitch before a game between the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays on April 16, 2017 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Katherine Switzer

Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people?

Kathrine: I love to be in the garden and do gardening. And, I love to see the result. It’s kind of like running, when you go out and do it you actually accomplish something and I love to see something growing.

Adam: ​How did you get here? ​What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?

Kathrine: That’s easy. The biggest thing, of course, was running the 1967 Boston Marathon and being attacked by the race director because I was a girl. That scared me, but allowed me to make the biggest decision of my life which was to finish the race. I realized that when I could do a marathon under those circumstances, it inspired me. It allowed me to create opportunities for women in sports, to become better athletes and to have a vision for sports in the future.

That was amazing and I love to tell people that story because I want them, too, to be empowered enough to make a correct decision that can positively, not only change their lives but millions of people’s lives.

Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader?

Kathrine: I think the defining qualities of an effective leader are: 1. Decisiveness. 2. Willingness to change. 3. Willingness to bounce back after defeat and learn from it. 4. Compassion. 5. High energy. 6. Probably the most important, is the willingness to take responsibility for a social injustice or even a simple project that needs doing.

Adam: How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?

Kathrine: The only way you can take your leadership skills to the next level is just like training for a marathon. You can’t run 26 miles until you’ve run 13 miles and you can’t run 13 miles until you’ve run five miles. So, you need to take it a step at a time. You need to do it well enough so you can take the next step. Each step gives you the confidence and the empowerment to go further. Also, you have to be willing … when you can’t take the next step … to work away at it until you can.

Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?

Kathrine: This may be repetitive but first, is a willingness to take responsibility. You need to see action and not just talk. 2. You must be personally willing to commit body and soul, especially to making change. 3. Having a social conscience. We’re surrounded right now by social injustice, social meanness so you must have a social conscience and do what’s right.

Adam: What is the single best piece of advice that you’ve ever received?

Kathrine: Run a mile a day. It gave me everything.

Adam: What is one thing everyone should be willing to do to pay it forward?

Kathrine: Pick up one piece of social injustice and make a correction. It could be as simple as telling a little kid, a boy or a girl, Atta Boy! Atta Girl, you can do it!

Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?

Kathrine: My hobbies are intertwined with my career, my passion and my touchstone which is movement, running, stretching – sports in short – but more than sports because it’s movement. My hobbies, which I do for fun, are hobbies that restore my soul. Reading, really good literature like Charles Dickens or Shakespeare. Cooking for friends that I love and not for any other reason. I also like to interact with nature which comes from running, but it could be a walk or just finding time to explore the woods around my house. And, gardening. I need to be in nature. Those are my hobbies but they’re also soul-restoring things.

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