Bobbi Gibb

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Roberta Louise "Bobbi" Gibb (born November 2, 1942 in Cambridge, Massachusetts[1][2][3]) is the first woman to have run the entire Boston Marathon (1966).[4] She is recognized by the Boston Athletic Association as the pre-sanctioned era women’s winner in 1966, 1967, and 1968.[5] At the Boston Marathon, the pre-sanctioned era comprised the years from 1966 through 1971, when women ran and finished the race unofficially. In 1996 the B.A.A. retroactively recognized as champions the unofficial women's leaders of 1966–71.

Gibb’s run in 1966 challenged prevalent prejudices and misconceptions about women's athletic capabilities.[6] In 1967, the second year of the later-to-be-recognized women's division at Boston, she finished nearly an hour ahead of the other female competitor, Kathrine Switzer. In 1968 Gibb finished first in a field of five women. It was not until late 1971, pursuant to a petition to the Amateur Athletic Union by Nina Kuscsik, that the AAU changed its rules and began to sanction women's division marathons. Kuscsik won the initial AAU-sanctioned women's division race at Boston in 1972.[7]


Early life[edit]

Bobbi Gibb grew up in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts during the 1940s and 1950s.[8] She studied at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and Tufts University School of Special Studies.[9][10] Her father was a professor of chemistry at Tufts. She was already running through the woods with the neighborhood dogs when, in 1962, she met a distance runner at Tufts named William Bingay, who would later become a sailor and her first husband.[11][12][13] They married on February 5, 1966, in California.[13] Her running included daily commuting of the eight miles to school.[11] She ran in white leather Red Cross nurses' shoes because there were no running shoes available for women at the time.[14]

Boston Marathon[edit]

Before 1966, the longest Amateur Athletic Union (AAU)-sanctioned race for women was one and a half miles. Until 1972, when the first women's division marathon opened, the Boston Marathon was a men’s division race, so all the pioneer women who ran before 1972 were, under the AAU rules, unsanctioned runners, running in an as yet to be sanctioned women’s division race.

Gibb trained for two years to run the Boston Marathon, covering as much as 40 miles in one day.[11][15] On writing for an application in February 1966, she received a letter from the race director, Will Cloney, informing her that women were not physiologically capable of running marathon distances and that under the rules that governed amateur sports set out by the AAU, women were not allowed to run more than a mile and a half competitively. She realized that it was more important than ever to run and that her run would have a social significance far beyond just her own personal challenge.

After three nights and four days on a bus from San Diego, California, Gibb arrived the day before the race at her parents' house in Winchester, Massachusetts.[15] On the morning of Patriots' Day, April 19, 1966, her mother dropped her off at the start in Hopkinton.[15] Wearing her brother’s Bermuda shorts and a blue hooded sweatshirt over a black, tanked-top swim suit, she hid in the bushes near the starting pen.[15] After the starting gun fired, she waited until about half the pack had started and then jumped into the race.[16]

The men soon realized that she was a woman. Encouraged by their friendliness and support, she removed her sweatshirt.[9] To her delight and relief, the crowds cheered to see a woman running. The press began to report on her progress towards Boston, history in the making.

Diana Chapman Walsh, the former President of Wellesley College, said of the event:

By the time Gibb reached the finish line in Boston, the Governor of Massachusetts, John Volpe, was there to shake her hand. She finished in three hours, twenty-one minutes and forty seconds,[13] ahead of two-thirds of the pack. The following morning her feat was front page news in the Record American, where the headline read: “Hub Bride First Gal to Run Marathon.”[18] In another Record American article entitled “Roberta Gets Official Support: Females May Run Marathon,” Jack Kendall wrote:

The May 2, 1966 issue of Sports Illustrated featured an article written by Gwilym S. Brown entitled “A Game Girl In A Man’s Game”:

In 1967, Gibb, now a full-time student at the University of California, San Diego, returned and ran again. She finished in three hours, twenty-seven minutes and seventeen seconds, almost an hour ahead of the other female competitor, Kathrine Switzer.[13] In 1968, Gibb ran again, finishing in three hours and thirty minutes, first among a growing number of women, which included Carol Ann Pancko, Elaine Pederson, and Marjorie Fish.[20] In 1969, 1970, and 1971, Sara Mae Berman was the women’s winner, and in 1972, Nina Kuscsik was the winner of the first officially-sanctioned women’s division event.

In 1996, at the 100th running of the Boston Marathon and the 30th anniversary of Gibb’s first running of it, the Boston Athletic Association officially recognized her three wins in 1966, 1967, and 1968 and awarded her a medal. Her name was inscribed with the names of the other winners on the Boston Marathon Memorial in Copley Square.[21]

Education and career history[edit]

Gibb received her Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree from the University of California, San Diego in 1969,[15] fulfilling the pre-medical requirements, with a major in philosophy and a minor in mathematics. She has reported she was denied admission to medical school because of her gender.[15] Gibb then worked with Professor Jerome Lettvin at MIT on epistemology and color vision while studying law. In 1974, Gibb entered the New England School of Law,[14] receiving her Juris Doctor (J.D.) in 1978.[2] She worked as a legislative aide in the Massachusetts State Legislature, studied natural systems, and pursued her interest in sculpture and painting. She was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 1978.[2] While raising her family, she practiced law, specializing in real and intellectual property. She worked, for part of that time, in patent law with Jerry Cohen, Esq.

Gibb sculpted the 12-inch bronze figurines of a pony-tailed girl running that were given as trophies to Joan Benoit Samuelson, Julie Brown, and Julie Isphording, the top three women marathoners at the US Olympic trials in 1984.[14][22] Samuelson has commented on her trophy stating: "There are only three in the world. It's irreplaceable."[22][23]

Gibb has written a memoir entitled Wind in the Fire: A Personal Journey.[24] A film based on her memoir and with the same title is currently in the works.[25] She has been included in Who’s Who of American Women, Who’s Who in America, and Who’s Who in the World. In 1982 she was inducted into the Road Runners Club of America Long Distance Running Hall of Fame,[26] and she has been interviewed for news programs and documentaries on ABC, CBS, NBC, ESPN, and HBO. She was included in the 1999 HBO Sports documentary Dare to Compete: The Struggle of Women in Sports. In 2000, she produced a documentary on her art and running entitled Where the Spirit Leads. Gibb received the 2009 Tufts University Athletics Distinguished Achievement Award[27] and was inducted into The Sports Museum of New England Hall of Fame in 2011. Her Special Achievement Award was presented by Joan Benoit Samuelson at the Sports Museum's 10th Annual "The Tradition" on June 28, 2011.[28][29] She pursues a career in art and writes on a wide range of topics including economics, spirituality, the nature of natural systems, and the phenomenon of subjective experience. Recently she joined the Cecil B. Day Neuromuscular Laboratory as an associate working to find the causes of and cures for neurodegenerative diseases, specifically amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. She divides her time between San Diego and Boston.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gibb, Roberta (1942–) Dictionary of Women Worldwide: 25,000 Women Through the Ages, January 1, 2007
  2. ^ a b c Bobbi Gibb - Chronology
  3. ^ Benyo, Richard; Joe Henderson (2001). Running Encyclopedia. Champaign, Illinois: Human Kinetics. p. 124. ISBN 0-7360-3734-9. 
  4. ^ B.A.A.: Boston Marathon History
  5. ^ B.A.A.: Boston Marathon History: Women's Open Champions
  6. ^
  7. ^ NYRR Hall of Fame: Nina Kuscik
  8. ^ Sosienski, Shanti (2006). Women Who Run. Berkeley, California: Seal Press. p. 3. ISBN 1-58005-183-9. 
  9. ^ a b National Art Museum of Sport: Sculptor was first woman to complete the Boston Marathon
  10. ^ O'Reilly, Jean; Susan K. Cahn (2007). Women and Sports in the United States: A Documentary Reader. Boston, Massachusetts: Northeastern University Press. pp. 38–40. ISBN 1-55553-671-9. 
  11. ^ a b c Gibb, Bobbi. To Boston with Love: The Story of the First Woman to Run the Boston Marathon
  12. ^ a b Brown, Gwilym S. (May 2, 1966). "A Game Girl In A Man's Game". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2009-08-18. 
  13. ^ a b c d Derderian, Tom (1996). Boston Marathon: The History of the World’s Premier Running Event. Champaign, Illinois: Human Kinetics Publishers.
  14. ^ a b c Creamer, Robert W. (May 28, 1984). "Scorecard". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2009-08-18. 
  15. ^ a b c d e f Gibb, Roberta. “A Run of One’s Own”. Women’s Sports Foundation
  16. ^ "Track & Field: Queen of the Marathon". Time magazine. April 29, 1966. Retrieved 2009-08-18. 
  17. ^ "Marathon’s Elite Women Runners Defy Spring Snow to Speak at Wellesley College". Wellesley College News Release. April 10, 1996. Retrieved 2009-08-17. 
  18. ^ (April 20, 1966). “Hub Bride First Gal to Run Marathon”. Record American
  19. ^ Kendall, Jack (April 21, 1966). “Roberta Gets Official Support: Females May Run Marathon”. Record American.
  20. ^ McLaughlin, Dan and Bill Duncliffe (1968). “Babes Bug BAA Bosses.” Record American.
  21. ^ "Boston Marathon Memorial". Boston Art Commission. Retrieved 9 January 2016. 
  22. ^ a b Musca, Michael (April 2008). "Finally, One for the Girls: The '84 Women's Olympic Trials Marathon". Running Times Magazine. Retrieved 2009-08-22. 
  23. ^ Moore, Kenny (March 4, 1985). "Her Life Is In Apple Pie Order". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2009-08-22. 
  24. ^ "Wind in the Fire". Harvard Book Store. Retrieved 2012-07-29. 
  25. ^ Katz, Brigit (20 April 2015). "The incredible story of Bobbi Gibb, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon". Women in the World (in assoc. w. New York Times). Retrieved 20 April 2015. 
  26. ^ Road Runners Club of America. "Road Runners Club of America: History of the National Award Winners" (pdf). RRCA website. Arlington, Virginia: Road Runners Club of America. p. 1. Retrieved August 17, 2009. Roberta Gibb-Welch 
  27. ^ "Homecoming 2009". Tufts University E-News. Retrieved 2012-07-29. 
  28. ^ "Roberta "Bobbi" Gibb To Run Inaugural B.A.A. 10K". Competitor. Retrieved 2012-07-29. 
  29. ^ "The Tradition". Retrieved 2012-07-29. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Cataneo, David (April 21, 1986). “Taking some giant steps for women: Gibb’s gallant ’66 run”. The Boston Herald.
  • Derderian, Tom (1986). Boston Marathon: 100 Years of Blood, Sweat and Cheers. Triumph Books.
  • Derderian, Tom (1996). Boston Marathon: The History of the World’s Premier Running Event. Champaign, Illinois: Human Kinetics Publishers.
  • Gibb, Bobbi (2012). Wind in the Fire: A Personal Journey.
  • Higdon, Hal (1995). Boston: A Century of Running. Emmaus, Pennsylvania: Rodale Press, Inc.

External links[edit]