Culture

Boston to Honor First Female Finisher, Bobbi Gibb

When the Boston Marathon gets underway in April, 30,000 runners (including about 13,000 women) will see a life-size statue of Bobbi Gibb—the first woman to run Boston back in 1966.

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It seems like a no brainer, given the historical significance. And the fact that there are currently four other statues along the famed course: Walter Brown at the start; Dick and Rick Hoyt on the south side of the Hopkinton Green; 1946 winner Stylianos Kyriakides at the mile mark; and “Old John” A. Kelley near the 20-mile mark. But Gibb’s will be the first of a female.

“It took us three years to wrap up the fund-raising, so it was much more like a marathon than the hurdles I used to run back in high school,” says Tim Kilduff of the nonprofit, Hopkinton-based 26.2 Foundation. “But I’m one-hundred percent certain the statue is going to happen. We’ve got the money, a spectacular site, and great community support.”

A life-size statue of Gibb will be placed on a slightly-elevated historical property at the west corner of Main Street (the Boston Marathon start line) and Hayden Rowe. The location is about 80 yards behind the start. That means all runners will walk and shuffle past the statue (on their right) as they approach the start. The statue was sculpted by Gibb herself, a multimedia artist, now 77.

“I’m thrilled almost beyond belief,” says Gibb. “It hasn’t really registered with me yet that we’ve reached the finish line of this project. The vision and support of the people in Hopkinton has been fantastic.”

The statue presents a realistic view of Gibb as she ran the final yards of the course in 1966. At the start, she had hidden in bushes, fearful that race security or other marathoners might prevent her from entering the throng of 540 runners. In fact, she received warm support all along the route. “I’m wearing a tank-top bathing suit, with my brother’s too-big Bermuda shorts,” Gibb says of the statue. “My hair is up in a ponytail.”

Gibb finished in an unofficial time of 3:21. She was also the first woman finisher the next two years at Boston. The Boston Marathon did not accept women as official runners until 1972 when Nina Kuscsik placed first.

“The site is just spectacular,” says Kilduff, a long time Hopkinton resident and race director of the Boston Marathon in 1983 and 1984. “Once all the work is completed and the statue’s installed, I think it’s going to become an iconic part of the Boston Marathon. Everyone’s going to want to see it.”