Kathrine Switzer (USA), a true trailblazer for women’s sport, will compete in the Virgin Money London Marathon for the first time in 2018 – the year in which the UK has been celebrating equality for women.

Switzer was the first woman to challenge the all-male tradition of marathon running when she became the first woman to enter and officially race the Boston Marathon in 1967.

Women were barred from running the 26.2-mile distance at this time and Switzer, who entered using just her initials, became known worldwide when a race official tried, but failed, to forcibly remove her from the competition.

Switzer finished the race and in doing so proved to the world that women could race the 26.2 mile distance and paved the way for every woman who has run a marathon since.

Now aged 71, she will be coming to run the 2018 Virgin Money London Marathon for the first time in the same year that the UK celebrates the suffragettes who 100 years ago helped convince Parliament to agree that women should be allowed to vote.

“The streets of London have been an important part of women’s running history as well as women’s rights,” said Switzer. “In 1980, a year before the first London Marathon, we staged the Avon International Women’s Marathon here and successfully showed the Olympic Committee that we had the talent and international representation to be included in the Olympic Games. Ever since then I’ve wanted to run it also, but have been too busy. Now is the time and I am so honoured and excited to be out there.”

Switzer, who won the 1974 New York City Marathon, has been a tireless advocate for women’s distance running and, after organising a global series of 400 women’s races in 27 countries, she was instrumental in getting the women’s marathon added to the programme of the Olympic Games for the first time in Los Angeles in 1984.

She has also advocated for women’s sports participation throughout the world and has created “261 Fearless”, a global non-profit movement that empowers women through running (see 261fearless.org).

261 was the number Switzer wore during her famous first Boston Marathon in 1967 and has become synonymous with women’s equality in sport. Switzer will again wear that iconic number for the 2018 Virgin Money London Marathon.

Switzer is well-known in the USA as a commentator and author. She was also inducted into the USA National Women’s Hall of Fame, where she was honoured not just for her running but for changing millions of women’s lives through running.