Bobbi Gibb is a woman who doesn’t believe in running away from prejudice. She believes in chasing her dreams and breaking down barriers.
Ever since she was a young girl Bobbi loved to run. She was never happier than when pounding the pavement. Running was a spiritual activity for Bobbi. She said, “When I run, I feel alive and part of the universe.”
In 1964, a 22-year-old Bobbi watched the Boston Marathon for the first time. She was blown away. Here were like-minded people who treated running as almost a religion. For Bobbi, the marathon symbolized dignity, strength, and endurance. In short, it was everything a human needed to live a good life.
It didn’t occur to Bobbi that there were no women in the event. In a rush of excitement, she applied to compete in the 1966 marathon. She then began training like a woman possessed.
Eventually, she received a rejection letter from the organizers. The Amateur Athletics Union had a bizarre rule. They didn’t believe women were physiologically able to run a marathon. They thought women would collapse in a heap before they reached the finish line.
Bobbi did not take their decision lying down. Bobbi would not let prejudice stop her from achieving her dreams. She was determined to run in the marathon for women everywhere.
Bobbi hitched a ride on a Greyhound bus. She rode 3,000 miles from her home in San Diego to Boston. She arrived the night before the marathon. She gorged on roast beef and apple pie and went to bed.
On the morning of the marathon, Bobbi wore a disguise of Bermuda shorts and a hoodie. She hid in a bush near the starting line. Once the men began running, she joined their ranks.
Spectators soon caught on to the fact she was a female. They began to applaud her spirit and yelled, “Way to go girlie!”
With a spring in her step, she crossed the finish line. She had become the first woman to complete the marathon. She had also stormed ahead of two-thirds of her male rivals in a time of three hours and 21 minutes.
Bobbi had laid down a gauntlet. The very next year another woman unofficially participated in the marathon. In 1972, the Amateur Athletics Union lifted their ban on female entrants. More and more women continued to run in Bobbi’s footsteps. By 2017, nearly half of the marathon’s participants were female.
Bobbi went on to become an artist, author, and scientific researcher. Although in her seventies, she continues to run for an hour each and every day.
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