The Boston Marathon is kind of a BFD. It is the most prestigious marathon in the world. Probably the most prestigious road race, period. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.
The chances of me ever qualifying, based on time, for this particular rite of spring are pretty darn slim. I’m just not a speed demon on my feet. But that doesn’t mean I can’t get swept up in all the excitement!
I was a little bummed to see Shalane and Kara finish out of the top 3 women (yes, obvies we are on a first name basis) but still as always super inspired by their awesomeness! And it reminded me of another inspiration and just how far the sport of running has come for women in the past few decades.
In 1966, Bobbi Gibb became the first woman to ever run the Boston Marathon. This despite the fact that women were not permitted to register for the race until 6 years later. She tried to enter the 1966 race officially but was informed by the race directors that women were not physiologically capable of running 26.2 miles. In fact, rules at the time prohibited women from entering races any longer than 1.5 miles. Gibb, who had trained up to 40 miles at a time, was not deterred. She donned a hoodie, crouched in the bushes, and rushed onto the course. Here’s a bit from a great California Report article checking with Bobbi Gibb before the start of this year’s race:
“She ran with the pack of men until she heard the comments from behind her, and realized the men behind her had figured out she was a young woman. It had taken about 30 seconds. She knew they could easily shoulder her out or report her, so instead of ignoring them she turned around and smiled. To her surprise, delight and a little chagrin, the crowd of men welcomed her.
“We got talking and they said, ‘Gee, I wish my girlfriend would run. I wish my wife would run.’ They wanted to share their love of running with the women in their lives.”
At this point, Gibb recalled, she started to get hot. She wanted to take off her sweatshirt, but knew her body and long bright blonde hair would give her away to the judges, the crowd and everybody else.
“If I take it off, I said, they might throw me out. The guys said, ‘We won’t let them throw you out. It’s a free road.’
She took off her sweatshirt and the crowd went wild. Reporters quickly figured out that a woman was in the race and started phoning ahead; a local radio station started broadcasting regular updates about where “the girl” was in the race. As Gibb ran by the crowds, she saw their reactions. Men were cheering and clapping, and women were jumping wildly up and down and weeping.
“I thought, “Oh my God, this is incredible,’ ” Gibb said, her voice warming. “This is really blowing peoples’ minds. I mean, women didn’t know they could do this!” She finished ahead of two-thirds of the marathon runners, dehydrated and exhausted.
She finished in 3:21:40 – nothing to sniff at.
The road wasn’t easy from then on. Kathrine Switzer registered the next year under gender-neutral initials. Only two miles into the race, the director rushed at her and tried to rip her race numbers off, as seen in these oft-circulated photos. He purportedly yelled “Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers.”
Switzer’s boyfriend and others running with her surrounded and protected her, and she ultimately crossed the finish line 20+ miles later. The attack on Switzer caused a huge uproar both within and beyond the running community. The response? The AAU actually instituted a formal BAN on woman competing in any road racing events with men. A number of women continued to courageously ghost run the Boston Marathon and other races in the years that followed, but it was another 5 years before women were permitted to “officially” run Boston.
I’m celebrating these trailblazers, and the Boston Marathon, by tracking my friend Susie who is running today with Team Stork! She awesomely raised about a grazillion dollars to help women and babies at Brigham Women’s and Children’s Hospital and now is running her victory lap of 26.2 miles… BAA has a super rad tracking program, so I get to see a little stick figure run along a map of the race route in sync with where she is. Fun times for a procrastinator on a Monday. 🙂
Have you ever run the Boston Marathon? Have a goal to run it in the future?
What’s your favorite running event?