Racing into History: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon

April 15, 2016 - By: Sarah Hovis

 The 2014 Running USA Annual Marathon Report showed that
over 40 percent of marathon finishers were women. And in
last year’s Boston Marathon®, more than 12,000 women finished the historic race. But the real history was made 50 years ago when Roberta ‘Bobbi’ Gibb (not
Kathrine Switzer as is widely believed) became the first woman to run and finish the Boston Marathon. It was 1966 and Gibb was determined to enter the race. She sent in her application only to
receive a letter from the race director Will Cloney stating she couldn’t run because, “Women aren't allowed, and furthermore are not physiologically able.” Her response to the slight was,
“All the more reason to run it!” So on race day Gibb was on the starting line, disguised in her
brother’s Bermuda shorts and a hooded sweatshirt to cover her hair. But a funny thing happened on the way to the finish line, the male runners could have cared less that there was a woman running. In fact, they were protective and encouraging. By the time Gibb crossed the finish line with an
unofficial time of 3:21:40, she was a media sensation.
Sports Illustrated summed up her accomplishment this way: “Last week a tidy-looking and pretty 23-year-old blonde [had] a performance that should do much to phase out the old-fashioned notion that a female is too frail for distance running.” And now Gibb is getting her long overdue recognition thanks to the Massachusetts Senate who last month officially acknowledged her as the
first woman to finish the Boston Marathon. She will also be the Grand Marshal for the 2016 race on April 18. As Joann Flaminio, president of the Boston Athletic Association told
Competitor.com, “Not only did Bobbi Gibb’s run lead to women’s participation in marathoning, but it also proved that courage and determination can lead to change.” Tell us in the comments what you think about Gibb's accomplishment.