• Bobbi Gibb was the first woman to finish the Boston Marathon. (Adidas running)Source: Adidas running
The 120th Boston Marathon is on Monday. 50 years ago, Bobbi Gibb made modern marathon history.
By
Rachel de Bear

13 Apr 2016 - 2:14 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2016 - 2:48 PM

In February 1966, Bobbi Gibb received a letter. It was from the Boston Marathon administration who rejected her application to attend the event because: 

"Women are not physiologically able to run a marathon and we can't take the liability." 

On 19 April 1966, she ran it anyway, in disguise. Gibb wore her brother's bermuda shorts, swimmers as a sports bra, and a hoody over her head.

As usual, the administration were slower to catch up than the general public. Male runners beside Gibb encouraged and supported her when they realised she was a woman. She felt so encouraged, she removed her sweatshirt. The crowd went crazy, cheering her on the rest of the way. 

It was the same reaction for Kathrine Switzer a year later, who "officially" entered the race - unbeknownst to the race admin as she just used her initials K.V. Other runners rallied around her, including journalists, as the race director leapt out of a truck, acted aggressively towards her and tried to rip off her racing number. 

In 1966, Gibb finished in 3 hours, 21 minutes beating more than half the field.

When you think of the era that these events happened, their stance was extraordinary. It happened at a time when women if they did attend university, were expected to still be home maker supported by the man they'd marry immediately after their studies. (ed: Gibb went on to become a lawyer for 20 years, then studied neuroscience as an assistant). 

In 1972, the Boston Marathon "officially" allowed women to enter. 

It wasn't until 1984 that the Olympic Games finally allowed women to compete in the marathon. That's nearly twenty years after Bobbi Gibb's first Boston run.

There's a story that is hard to find official confirmation of, a Greek woman named Stamata Revithi ran the marathon course a day after the men finished it at the first modern Olympics in 1896. You see, no women were allowed to compete because Pierre de Coubertin felt that their inclusion would be:

"impractical, uninteresting, unaesthetic, and incorrect."

Thanks for the video then Adidas and celebrating and honouring such a trailblazer.