Barren trees, still wrapped in winter gray,
brush the April sky with pastel shades of
mauve and lavender. Runners in brightly
colored clothes mill among the trees,
clustering and talking in groups. The
reality hits me—this is a real race and real
people; they really do not allow women.
There are policemen here who can arrest
me. I have no idea what I am getting into.
My greatest fear is that I will be stopped,
prevented from proving that a woman can
run twenty-six miles.
I trot slowly around the town getting the
lay of the land. Next to the common I find a
little hollow, which smells dank and dusty
with last year’s leaves. I crouch down, hidden in the bushes. The dead litter rustles
under my shoes. My heart is beating fast
inside my warm sweatshirt. I feel the restless energy in my legs and thighs. I wait,
poised, ready to leap.
The bang of a gun drifts across the light
spring air and a cheer goes up from the
spectators. The mass of runners springs
forward with a roar. I wait until about half
the pack has gone and then leap out of the
bushes. My legs unfold and my feet hit the
pavement running hard. The physicality of
other runners surrounds me—the flailing
arms and legs, the intense concentration,
the heat, the sound of soft, strong foot falls
on the road.
I hear the men talking to each other in
“Is that a girl?”
“It sure looks like one.”
I turn and smile.
April 16, 1966
A firsthand account of Bobbi Gibb’s historic run.
Abridged from Wind in the Fire by Bobbi Gibb, Revelle '69
“It is a girl!”
“A woman’s running!”
“Are you going the whole way?” asks the
lanky man beside me.
“I hope so,” I respond, laughing.
The weight of responsibility presses on
me. Failing to finish will end up setting
women back. People will say, “This is why
we don’t let women run. Women really are
not capable of these things,” And the door
will be slammed even more tightly.
The men are friendly and supportive. “We
won’t let them throw you out,” they agree.
I reach my arms up and pull the sweatshirt
over my head. For a second, the crowd is
“It’s a girl!” a woman screams from
“Hey, at a-go girly!” says a man.
“Go get 'em!”
We speed on through Wellesley, where the
women at the college have been listening
to my progress on the radio. When they
see me, the intensity of their screaming
“There she is!”
“A woman is running!”
Some of them are crying. One woman has
several children clinging to her ample
overcoat. “Ave Maria!” she shouts, tears
streaming down her face.
We run over the bridge across Route 128
like a herd of wild animals. People cheer
and clap. “Heartbreak Hill,” I hear from another runner. “It’s a killer.” We’re on Route
30—seventeen miles. I feel great, though
I’m not used to running on pavement and
my shoes are chafing. We start to climb.
The incredible strength and endurance it
takes to run a marathon, to live a life with
integrity. You are surrounded by other
people running, but no one else can do it
for you. You have to do it yourself. I watch
the patterns and sparkles in the pavement,
and I am filled with a sense of their beauty.
The road goes up, as do we. Pace slows as
runners strain. I feel the edge of fatigue for
IT STARTS WITH ONE
More than 175,000 women have completed the
Boston Marathon in the half-century since Gibb
first crossed the finish line.