Monday, April 18, 2016

Fifty Years of Women Running the Boston Marathon

It's been fifty years since the first woman ran in the Boston Marathon. I always knew that Bobbi Gibb had a tough time when she ran, that some men weren't happy with her being there, but I had no idea just how hard it was for her. She had written to the marathon officials asking for an application, but their reply was that women were not physiologically capable of running a marathon. So she hid in the bushes near the start, wearing a hoodie as a disguise, and joined the crowd when they started. She worried she might be arrested. Can you imagine?

Physiologically capable
Running is such a basic part of human nature. Running means escaping danger, chasing food, rushing to help someone in need, or that you're having fun. Most little kids love to run. They chase each other, have impromptu races, or run just to enjoy the speed or the feeling of the wind against their skin and in their hair, or simply because it feels good to move. I have a good run when I invoke those childhood sensations, when I think, "Hey, this is fun!" I can't imagine being told, "You're not meant to do this thing that brings you joy."

This past weekend I ran a 5K. It was my first race in inclement weather. It was cold and windy, and it started sprinkling right before we started. When the clouds parted later that day, there was snow on the mountains. Despite the wind and the stinging rain, I had a great time. Despite the fact that I was still getting over being sick, I improved upon my pace. There's something wonderfully primitive about running in a large group. It's like being part of a pack. There's a sense of safety, of camaraderie, of friendly competition. We ran through some fields near the Rio Grande River. I spotted geese and ducks in a field that was being flooded, and a couple of horses. I got to run through a neighborhood I'd never been in before. I finished the race and had a delicious slice of cinnamon swirl raisin bread and chocolate milk as I trekked back to my car. It was great.

I cannot imagine being told 'no' to something like that. I'm glad that the running world, and the world in general, has changed its attitude toward women. I'm glad that Bobbi Gibb had the guts to sneak into a race. The world needs people who refuse to take 'no' for an answer.

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