Boston Marathon is considered the Holy Grail of marathon running. And there is much to its fascinating history. But what struck me the most is the story of a woman who changed running forever (I actually had tears in my eyes). Bobbi Gibb was the first woman to run Boston Marathon 50 years back and unofficially so as women were not allowed to compete in distances more than 800 meters. Why? Because it was believed that they were not physiologically capable of running a long distance such as 42.2km. To begin with Bobbi Gibb wanted to participate in the marathon because of her love for running. She started training for it and underwent a spiritual journey. However, when her application got rejected, she took it upon herself to make a statement about what women were capable of achieving. But the question was how? How can she prove when she wasn’t allowed to participate? She decided to race unofficially without a bib. She hid behind a bush close to the start line, let half the men start running, and joined them wearing a big hoodie and her brother’s shorts so that she could disguise herself all the time scared that she might be arrested. The men running by her side realised it’s a woman and assured her that they won’t let anyone stop her from completing the run. It gave her the confidence to throw the heavy hoodie away and run freely. Word got around and the crowd frenetically cheered for her. She ran conservatively (alright if 3:21 for a full marathon can be considered that!!!) as her idea was to prove that a woman can run this distance and run it well, if she trains enough. She knew that she couldn’t afford to collapse or stop as that would only reinforce the prejudices and set women’s running back another 20 years. She was greeted with much aplomb at the finish line. She managed to change the way men think about women and the way women thought about themselves. She ran unofficially again in 1968 and 1969. Boston Marathon officially started allowing women to participate in 1972.
She will be the Grand Marshal for the 2016 Boston Marathon on Monday. I’m definitely going to pick up her book Wind In The Fire: A Personal Journey soon. She started a running movement and as runners we owe a lot to her. (check the short video below to see how gracefully she has aged).