First Lady

by Old Bone Machine

There was a time, not too long ago, when women were unable to run marathons. They were physiologically unable to do so.

The Amateur Athletic Union deemed that a mile and a half was the furthest a woman could run.

Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb in her early twenties would run for pleasure through the woods near her home in the Boston suburbs. She would run also to commute to university, eight miles away.

She did not wear New Balance, Nike or Brooks, she wore white leather nurses’ shoes.


In her training for the Boston Marathon, Gibb, would sometimes run 40 miles in a single day. Her application though to run the Boston Marathon was declined. She was informed by letter that women were physically unable to cover the marathon distance of 26 miles.

On April 19, 1966, near the Boston Marathon start line in Hopkinton, she hid in bushes. She had traveled four days from California by bus to run and as the starting gun was fired she joined the mass of all male runners. She wore her brother’s Bermuda shorts and a black swim suit.

The crowd cheered her and the news of her exploit spread, by word of mouth, like wild-fire. The then Governor of Massachusetts, John Volpe, greeted her at the finish line.

She had successfully completed the marathon in three hours, twenty-one minutes and forty seconds, ahead of two-thirds of the other runners.


Images sourced from the superlative site Six Seconds High.