In 1967, Katherine Switzer made a bold choice to run the Boston Marathon, despite its rule banning women. Come race day she held her own until the race director chased her down and tried to rip the race bib right off her chest. The assault caught the attention of national media, and the race was officially opened to women soon after.
2017 marks the 50th anniversary since Katherine’s groundbreaking run, and she has been invited back to race the course alongside 50 other handpicked, fiercely inspiring women. Among the team, (appropriately named “261 Fearless” in honor of her original bib number) is Austin’s very own, APD Lieutenant Eve Stephens. From the police force to the race course, Eve shares her story of prevailing as a woman in a man’s world.
How long have you been with the Austin Police Department? I was 22 years old when I started my job with APD. There were just five women in my academy class of 46, which is actually higher than average. I am now a lieutenant and have been an officer for 17 years.
What aspects of being a female officer have been the most rewarding? The most rewarding aspect of being a female police officer is knowing that I’m setting an example for all the other women who will come after me. Even in 2016, women still make up only 10-12 percent of a police force, with minority women making up even less. I am the first Asian female police officer to earn the rank of lieutenant at APD.
What aspects have been the most challenging? There is judgment for being a woman in a man’s world. Even my parents did not want me to become a police officer, because it wasn’t traditionally something a woman does. Being one of a few women in the department is not easy. We are constantly tested. As a woman, you have no choice but to push harder, try to be better, and prove more.
What got you into running? I always ran recreationally, but started running races when I turned 30. The first timed race I ever did was the Statesman Capitol 10K. I wasn’t the fastest, but I liked it so much that I kept at it, and my distances started to get longer and longer. I now have a full Ironman, half Ironman, and a number of other races under my belt. Boston will be my 7th marathon.
What made you apply to run on the Boston “261 Fearless” team? Boston is the oldest marathon in the U.S., and it’s been a long-time dream of mine to run it. That dream intensified after the 2013 bombing. I really want to support that community who clearly loves its runners. I applied to run for 261 Fearless because I am so inspired by its mission of ‘empowering women globally to connect and take control of their lives through the freedom gained by running.’ How amazing is that?
How has Katherine’s story inspired you? What happened to Katherine happened in our lifetime. And if not your lifetime, then your parents’. It’s a very real and tangible thing to know that discrimination existed then and still exists today. Katherine dared to defy stereotypes of women in the ‘60s and I hope to do the same for female police officers now. She broke into the world of an all-male event and was brave enough to know she could run just like the men could—and she did. I hope to be a part of the women at APD who show the world we can do this job just like the men can. We have every bit the heart, drive, and determination.
What do you hope to see in the next generation of young women? I hope to see the young girls of today not intimidated to try something that is male-dominated. I hope they can find the courage and bring out the bravery in themselves to break stereotypes and do what they know they are capable of, to ignore anyone who says “no” and to just keep going.
How could someone interested in supporting you on this journey do that? Any donations to my 261 Fearless fund are very appreciated! This is a tax deductible 501(c) charity which goes to supporting women in running.