It’s incredible to look back and realize that as recently as the 1960s—within living memory—women weren’t allowed to take part in official races longer than 1.5 miles and that the world believed it was impossible women could ever run the Boston Marathon.
It was a woman named Bobbi Gibb who proved the world wrong.
We’re honored to share Bobbi’s story in our new illustrated children’s book. The Girl Who Ran is a stunning tribute to Bobbi as well as inspiration for people of all ages to follow their dreams, no matter who is telling them “no.”
When Bobbi Gibb first saw the Boston Marathon she knew she had to be a part of it. She trained hard, but when the time came to apply, she was refused entry. They told Bobbi girls don’t run, girls can’t run. That didn’t stop her. “I knew I had to run Boston,” Bobbi says “to show what women could do.”
The odds were stacked against Bobbi. Even basic athletic clothing was hard to come by. With no women’s running shoes available, Bobbi purchased a pair designed for boys. To try and blend in at the marathon, she put on her brother’s Bermuda shorts and wore a shapeless hoodie.
Despite her disguise, the other participants soon realized Bobbi was a woman—and they voiced their support. “We won’t let anyone throw you out,” one said to her, “it’s a free road.” The wider world may have dismissed Bobbi’s dream and her love of long-distance running, but her fellow marathon runners understood both. As the starred Kirkus review for The Girl Who Ran notes, “[Bobbi’s] story speaks to not only women’s fight for equality, but the power of community.”
Our authors, Frances Poletti and Kristina Yee, worked alongside Bobbi to retell the story of her amazing, boundary-breaking run. They chose a strong rhythm and refrain for the book that echoes the feeling of running, and touches on the title of Bobbi’s own memoir, Wind in the Fire.
She ran further and further, and she ached and perspired,
and the world whooshed on by, like the wind in the fire.
Our illustrator, Susanna Chapman, lives locally to Boston and attends the marathon every year to cheer on the participants. In 2016 she took her art materials along with her to sketch the runners and make studies for The Girl Who Ran.
Susanna’s illustrations are bright and energetic, and beautifully capture the emotions of Bobbi’s journey as well as the fluidity of running—and the joy.
Her illustrations for the book culminate with a stunning gatefold that opens to show a wordless image of Bobbi triumphantly crossing the finish line—and making history.
In 1966, Bobbi finished the race with a time of 3:21:40, ahead of about half the men who were running. Today, more than 50 percent of runners in the USA are women, with over 12,000 running the Boston Marathon every year. And it all started with Bobbi and other pioneers like her. “…the advice I’d give to young people about shaping the future is to follow your dreams,” says Bobbi, “and do what you most passionately feel needs doing.”
We hope you will be inspired by the story of Bobbi Gibb. Of how she broke the rules. Of how her story offers an inspiring message for women and young girls today—to overcome challenges and discover what they’re made of. And of how, one step at a time, Bobbi changed the world for all of us.