Updated: Dec 30, 2019
In honor of the Boston Marathon on Monday, I wanted to throw it back to an article I wrote last year. It features an event that should have gotten more media attention but nevertheless, it gave recognition to whom deserved it, specifically featuring a woman who helped clear the path for women to run in this race. At the Boston Marathon on Monday, thousands of people ran their hearts and legs out for the full 26.2 miles into the heart of Boston. Winners claimed their titles for 2016 while others just had the goal of finishing. You probably heard of the winners and their times, but you probably didn’t know what really took place at the finish line.
Bobbi Gibb helped to clear the path for women to run in this quintessential race, and as a result, they honored her at the finish line with a breaking of the tape before the winners crossed. But it was what Atsede Baysa did that really warmed hearts.
On Tuesday, the day after the marathon Baysa, gave Gibbs her trophy, the one she earned just 24 hours before. She did it to thank Gibb for breaking down the Boston Marathon gender barrier by running in the 1966 Boston Marathon. She finished that race in 3 hours, 21 minutes, and 40 seconds — faster than two-thirds of the male runners, but had to disguise herself to sneak onto the course.
Women weren’t allowed to because as men said “women are physiologically incapable of running 26.2 miles.” But Gibb who ran for hours and many miles on the regular knew that was wrong. So she hid in the bushes before the start of the race wearing a hoodie to blend in. She was afraid she would be kicked off the course (as what almost happened with Katherine Switzer) that she was surprised to find that the other men didn’t mind, and the spectators were excited to see a female on the course.
“She’s inspiring for us, being women and runners,” Baysa said. “Now we are running around the globe. Her story is very touching.”
Fifty years later, the Boston Athletic Association finally honored and recognized her, making her the grand marshall for the 120th edition of the race while Boston Athletic Association president Joanne Flaminio made an announcement that Gibb’s three first-place finishes, previously considered unofficial, will now be officially recognized as part of a “Pioneer Era.”
Gibbs, however, will only keep the trophy for one year because Baysa deserves to have it and she will bring it back to her in her home country of Ethiopia.
Nearly half of the 27,487 people running in the race this year were women, which is an incredible increase given that women weren’t allowed to run in it until 1972.
Thank you, Bobbi Gibb, for your tenacity and determination in helping to break down gender barriers for women in sport.