In early 1966 Bobbi Gibb, a local Bostonian girl, applied to run in the city’s
famous marathon only to be told that, as a woman, she was not allowed
to do so, that women were simply physiologically unable to do so.
But Bobbi, a free-spirited child of the 1960s, had just finished a cross-continent
road-trip from Boston to California where she’d pick a spot on the horizon, run
to it and sleep under the stars when tiredness overtook her.
The experience was intensely spiritual but she’d clock up to 40 miles a day through
the prairies and mountains of her nation. Bobbi was seriously good. And she refused
to kow-tow to the draconian Boston Athletics Association and decided to run the
marathon anyway. Running was a way of harmonising with nature for Bobbi; being
told she couldn’t do it was anathema.
On the morning of the marathon, Bobbi hid in a bush and at the gun she jumped into
the pack, blending into the throng dressed in a baggy hooded sweater and her
The disguise didn’t fool her fellow racers but instead of barge her off the course, the men encouraged her, emboldening her to cast off her heavy sweater and run free – as a woman. The response from the crowd was phenomenal, with female watchers bursting into tears.
“At that moment, I knew that I was running for much more than my own personal challenge,” Bobbi has since said. “I was running to set women free and to overturn the false beliefs that kept half the world’s population in bondage.
Bobbi finished with a time of 3 hours 21 minutes – ahead of two-thirds of the competition – in a gloriously instinctive victory for feminism in the decade that changed everything.
Bobbi was nominated by Rosamund, whose recent strong performance in this years London Marathon owed not a little to Ms Gibbs’ marathon effort.