“Women are not physiologically able to run a marathon, and we can’t take the liability.” This is the reply Bobbi Gibb received when she applied to run in the Boston Marathon in 1966. And this was Bobbi’s reaction, “If I can prove that this is a mistaken belief about women, it’s going to open up the whole question of what else we think women can’t do. What other false beliefs are keeping us imprisoned?”
At the time, women couldn’t get a mortgage for a home or a credit card. “There were no opportunities for women to manifest their ability.” Bobbi Gibb knew that if she ran in the Boston Marathon and completed the race, that it wouldn’t just be her own achievement, but that it would be a statement from all women, that we are capable, that we are strong, that we can run like the wind and that we should, that everyone should, be allowed opportunities to manifest our abilities, whatever they may be.
The Girl Who Ran introduces children to Bobbi’s story. Shares her hopes, her unwavering determination, all in wild watercolors. As a child, she loved to run, “Into the woods, over the hills, through fields and by streams, Bobbi’s feet flew across the earth.” She spoke of running as a kind of freedom she didn’t have in society, and it was with her running that she fought against social injustice. Despite not having permission to compete in the Boston Marathon, she ran. In a pair of men’s running shoes, a black swimsuit, her brother’s shorts and a shapeless sweatshirt, she ran “like the wind in the fire.”
Midway through the story, we learn that the men running with her and many in the crowd supported her every step. They cheered for her and were inspired by her. Back matter records that today more than 12,000 women run in the Boston Marathon each year. It’s been fifty one years since Bobbi’s race, and sadly the fight against inequality and other social injustices are like running a marathon, or a hundred marathons. But, if we’re able to push through every agonising step, if we can come together and support one another, share hopeful stories like Bobbi’s with the rising generations, then we’ll burst through every finish line tape exhausted but exhilarated.