For Roberta Louise "Bobbi" Gibb, running was spiritual – a way of escaping society’s rigid ideals for women. In 1964, she watched her first Boston Marathon. No women were competing, but Gibb was captivated with the idea of pushing the human body to the limits of physical endurance.
She was determined to run.
In February of 1966, Gibb submitted an application to the Boston Athletic Association. She used her real name and made no attempt to hide her gender. She received a letter from the director of the Boston Marathon explaining she would not be permitted to run because it was a men’s race and women were not physically capable.
The letter stated that allowing a woman to run 26 miles would be a tremendous liability.
At that moment, Gibb realized running the Boston Marathon was more than just a personal challenge – there was a true social significance. Dressed in a pair of her brother’s shorts and a hooded sweatshirt, Gibb hid in the bushes near the starting line and waited for the right moment to join the pack of more than 500 men who were setting out from Hopkinton.
On April 19, 1966, Bobbi Gibb completed the Boston Marathon in 3 hours, 21 minutes, 40 seconds (126th out of 540 entrants). Her participation was a pivotal event in changing the perception of women, a symbol of human triumph and the natural culmination of a life-long impulse to run.
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