Roberta Gibb -- First Woman to Run Boston Marathon
Bobbi Gibb running in her first Boston Marathon, 1966.
Bobbi Gibb Marathon Sculpture, designed by Bobbi Gibb.
Backstory and Context
Roberta "Bobbi" Gibb is the first woman to run the entire Boston
Marathon. She was born on November 2nd, 1942 and is presently
seventy-five years of age. She was the first woman to run and complete
the Boston Marathon in the year 1966, at the time many people held the
false belief that women were unable to run marathon distances. According
to her biography online (bobbigibbart.net), her feat disproved widely held beliefs about
women and was pivotal in triggering the second wave of the women's
On the day of the race in April, Bobbi Gibb was not registered as a runner because she had been denied that chance. Not willing to accept no for an answer, however, she made the decision to sneak into the marathon. Gibb waited until about half of the runners had begun running before joining in with the pack of people. In February of that year she had written an application for the marathon but was informed via letter that women were not permitted to run.
After receiving the letter from the race director denying her entrance into the marathon based on the fact that she was a woman, Gibb made the decision to sneak into the race anyway. She disguised herself in a large hoodie (blue to be exact) and hid in the bushes so that she would not be noticed. While running, Gibb told some of the men that she was worried that spectators of the race may try to get her to stop, or interfere, when they realized she was a woman. The men she was running with told her that they would take care of her and that she had as much of a right as them to be running. It was at this point that Gibb removed the hoodie, allowing everyone to see that she was a woman.
Though she technically began the race a little later than some of the runners she was still able to finish ahead of more than two-thirds of the male runners (The New York Times). At the time she was just twenty-three years of age. Gibb finished her first race in three hours, twenty-one minutes and forty seconds. After finishing the race she was ushered off by the news media who tried to get her to say that she'd entered the race because she was a man-hater but Gibb did not take the bait.
The next year Gibb returned to Boston and was the first female finisher.
She finished the race in three hours, twenty-seven minutes which was
almost an hour ahead of another female competitor Katherine Switzer who is famously known as the first woman to ever be given a
numbered bib in the Boston Marathon. Bobbi Gibb paved the way for women to run, as of yet there is no statue of her but there is a campaign underway to erect one. According to bobbigibbart.net, Joan Benoit Samuelson and a long list of Boston Marathon champions have united to form the Bobbi Gibb Marathon Sculpture Project.