16 CITATIONS - June 2016
By Bill Grewe
Giants come in all sizes. You are looking at one, above. A 23-year-old runner, Bobbi Gibb, is seen approaching the finish line of the 1966 Boston Marathon. She hid out in bushes near the starting line. When about half the runners had left the pen, wearing a hooded sweatshirt, she made a break, beginning the course at the start. No woman had ever run the Boston. It was simply not permitted.
Gibb was on no great mission. She was not part of a movement. There was no support team. There was no prize to claim or record to break. When asked why she did what she did — run America's oldest and foremost marathon and road race, the Boston Marathon — she said, "it was time." The photograph captures puzzled expressions. A woman running the Boston Marathon? Seemingly stunned and uncertain, there is no group at the ready to welcome Gibb at the finish. What is Gibb wearing? Weren't there running clothes for women? Women's running shoes? There were not. The shorts were her brother's. The shoes were standard white American Red Cross nurse issue. This writer remembers 1966, which means he is either old (true), or it was not that long ago (also true). In 1966, women did not work at McDonalds. Too rough. Women were not hired to work as grocery store baggers. Too physical. If a woman wanted a job, she thumbed through the classifieds and responded to ads seeking "Girl Friday." But to Gibbs' surprise, her fellow runners that spring morning were supportive, giving her the confidence to discard her sweatshirt.
That was the world of the bushes from which young Bobbi Gibb stepped on April 19, 1966. If officials could have grabbed her and pulled her off the course, they would have. There is a rather famous photo from the following year's race of an official chasing a registered female runner who signed up using just her first and middle initials to hide her sex. It was too late. Try as they might, they could not put the Bobbis back in the bushes.
When word spread that a woman was on the course, Massachusetts Governor John Volpe, smart politician that he was, hustled to the finish line to congratulate Gibb. We have our own modest run each year, our Law Day 5k that Joe Strohman of Ferguson Case Orr Paterson LLP and a crew of volunteers put together each year. It is run at Ventura Community Park on Kimball at the 126. If you haven't given it a try, let this be the year. The run has a relaxed feel to it. Festive. The course is two times around the park, but no one is counting. Walkers participate. It is just a nice way to spend a summer Saturday morning. Please come out if you can and have a look. July 9, 2016. Runsignup.com, or see the flyer. This year, more than 13,000 women competed in the Boston Marathon. The Grand Marshal who saw the runners off? UC San Diego grad Roberta Louise Gibb, of course. Oh, her time in 1966... three hours, 21 minutes and 40 seconds. Wow.