For the past 120 years, the third Monday of April (Patriots’ Day) is reserved for the oldest annual marathon in the world, and one of the best-known road racing events – the Boston Marathon.
Inspired by the spirit and greatness of the marathon at the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896, Boston Athletic Association member and inaugural US Olympic Team Manager John Graham decided to organize a marathon in Boston, United States.
On April 19, 1897, 15 runners made history when they started the 24.5 miles (39.4 km) marathon, which has been held every year since then, even during the World War years. John J. McDermott of New York ran the 24.5-mile course in 2:55:10, and forever secured his name in sports history as the first winner of the Boston Marathon.
Women were not allowed to enroll the Boston Marathon, until 1972. However, in 1966, 23-year-old Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb decided to write an application and expected to receive a letter from the Boston Athletic Association with her race number, but she was informed that her request for the application had been denied. The race director, Will Cloney wrote her that women were not allowed to run more than a mile and a half competitively and that they were not physiologically capable of running marathon distances.
Gibb was furious and couldn’t believe what Will Cloney wrote to her. Now she wanted more than ever to run the Boston Marathon and prove that Cloney was wrong.
She took her brother’s Bermuda shorts and a hoodie to hide her long hair and hid in a cluster of bushes near the starting line, before jumping into the race. Gibb defied social norms and out of 540 entrants, finished in 126th place, thus becoming the first women to have run the entire Boston Marathon.
Next year another woman named Kathrine Switzer made history when she became the first female to enter the Boston Marathon officially. Now, 50 years later Switzer did it again.
Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb tried to register for the marathon in 1966, but her request was denied. One year later, Switzer managed to register using her gender-neutral initials K.V. Switzer. In 1967 when Switzer registered for the marathon, the entry form didn’t include a spot to select gender.