Wednesday 20 August 2014

"Hub Bride First Gal to Run Marathon"

“If I can show that a woman can run 26 miles, and run it well -- stride for stride with the men -- that is going to throw all the rest of the prejudices and all the misconceptions and all of the so-called reasons for keeping women down that have existed for the past how many centuries? Centuries of this stuff! And so I sort of chuckled to myself and thought, ‘Oh, this is going to be fun! I'm going to turn the whole thing on its head.’ ” 
Bobbi Gibb

Roberta Louise "Bobbi" Gibb applied for the Boston Marathon in February 1966. She received a reply from the race director Will Cloney who informed her about the "fact" that women were not physiologically capable of running twenty-six miles and apart from that were not allowed to (Heminsley, 2013). “And that's what everyone thought. I mean, this was a universal truth. Women can't be doctors, it's too much stress. Women can't be lawyers, it's too much stress. Women can't be in the government.... women can't run long distance. Women can't do anything except stay home and clean the house. It was like being in a cage. It was horrible.... It was just everywhere. It was ubiquitous.” During her training she waited to see what would happen to her physically as the "conventional wisdom" was that running more than a mile could be deadly to women (via).

Her running turned from a personal challenge into a question of principle. "I was running to change the way people think ... If women could do this that was thought impossible, what else could women do? What else can people do that is thought impossible?" The only problem was that Gibb was not allowed to participate and hence could not show what was possible (Heminsley, 2013). She borrowed old shorts from her brother, put on a swimsuit and a blue hooded sweater and hid in the bushes. When the gun went off she jumped into the crowd of runners. After a while, the men who were running behind her realised that she was a woman and reacted positively. Despite the temperatures she was afraid of removing her hoody, of revealing that she was a woman and being thrown out. "We won't let them throw you out. It's a free road.", the men behind her said.
"That was another item on my agenda, to end this stupid war of the sexes. Why do we have to be fighting a war of the sexes? We're on the same side in this! Men can have feelings. Women can have physical bodies that are strong.... you can be who you are.” 
She took the hoody off, the crowd went wild (via) and cheered. "One woman standing near, with several children, yelled 'Ave Maria'. She was crying. I felt as though I was setting them free. Tears pressed behind my own eyes." (Hemnisley, 2013)

Bobbi Gibb made headlines ("Hub Bride First Gal to Run Marathon") and contributed to changing the way people think about men and women. Her time (3 hours, 21 minutes), however, was not officially recorded; "the record books did not take note of her achievement, no matter how many newspapers did." (Heminsley, 2013).

- Heminsley, A. (2013). Running like a girl. London: Hutchinson
- photos via and via and via and via
related postings: Merry LepperKathrine Switzer


  1. Love your marathon series!

  2. Thanks, an interesting look back in time. Actually, not so far away history.

    1. Not so far away history. That was the most astonishing detail - the fact that this was common practice a few decades ago. Many thanks for commenting, Tim.

  3. Great posting! Again.