We’ve never met, and probably never will, but I wanted to let you know how your brave and historic defiance of a male dominated sport on that balmy day in April 1966 impacted my life…
Becky J Miller | Exclusive to Corridor News
We’ve never met, and probably never will, but I wanted to let you know how your brave and historic defiance of a male dominated sport on that balmy day in April 1966 impacted my life.
You were only 23, I had not even been born and yet, you opened the door for thousands of women just like me. Undoubtedly you just wanted the freedom to run, but your courage paved the way for all of the great American females of the sport like Deena Castor, Shalane Flanagan, Kara Goucher and Molly Huddle, plus all of us ordinary running gals.
To your credit, you didn’t start out as rebel, you tried to do things the right way. Your story published in the May 2016 edition of Runner’s World magazine tells us that you took the time to write the Boston Athletic Association requesting an application. When race director Will Cloney denied your request, you were undeterred.
Popular lore of the time claimed women were not physiologically capable of covering 26.2 miles on foot. Logic dictated that unless a woman were actually given the opportunity to try how would anyone ever know the truth? You wanted to expose what you believed a misconception regarding women’s limitations, and I personally am grateful that you did.
Having grown up in a world where very few limitations remain for women, I cannot imagine being denied the freedom to run competitively simply based on my gender. When I began my running career, thanks to you, the only obstacles blocking my success were self-placed fear and doubt. Those demons are difficult enough to overcome without having to deal with gender bias.
Even in 2018 walking into a room full of men makes me uncomfortable, so I can only imagine how you must’ve felt hitting the pavement with 500 men who might discover your ruse and forcefully remove you from the race. I love how the male runners expressed surprise when they first noticed you, then joined forces to protect and keep you in the race.
The Boston Marathon began in 1897. When you ran in 1966 it was as an outlaw or bandit as they are known today. Still, it would be another six years, 1972 before women were officially permitted to enter the Boston Marathon. But in 2015, 12,018 women would enter the race, and every one of them should be thanking you for the opportunity.
Who knows, the tides might have eventually turned without you, or they might not have, or it could have taken decades longer. Thankfully, we will never know. By the time I was five years old, the world of distance running was no longer off limits for me. It would be over fifty years between your first marathon and mine, but because of your spunk and determination, the pride I felt crossing that finish line in London can be attributed, in part, to you.
So, thank you Bobbie Gibb for venturing into uncharted territory and forever changing history on April 19, 1966.
Until Next Time,
Becky J Miller