SI Vault
Edited by Robert W. Creamer
May 28, 1984
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May 28, 1984


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She hopped on a bus and spent four days crossing the country, reading essays by Albert Einstein and subsisting mostly on apples. Eighteen hours after arriving in Boston she was crouched behind a bush near the starting line, wearing a new pair of boys' size-6 Adidas shoes, cutoff khakis over a tank-style bathing suit and a hooded sweat shirt.

When the gun went off she jumped into the stream of competitors and ran a respectable 3:21.25, without incident—although race official Jock Semple referred to her irritably as "that Gibb woman." A year later Semple ran onto the course to tear the number off the back of another woman runner, Kathy Switzer, who had gained entry (and the number) by giving her name as " K. Switzer." The widely publicized incident made Switzer famous. Gibb, meanwhile, was running her second Boston without fanfare—or number—and finished 59 minutes ahead of Switzer. She ran Boston once again, in 1968, and then gave up the California-Boston commute for solitary runs along the Pacific beaches.

In 1974 Gibb returned to Boston, went to the New England School of Law and eventually settled in Rockport, where she lives in a 210-year-old house with her mother, her 8-year-old son, Leif, and two goats. She runs 50 miles a week and is on the advisory board of the Club of Rome, an international body concerned with problems related to the world's growing population. Her law office is in her home—her practice is mainly property and environmental law—and she sculpts there, too, although in summer she uses a small cabin she built herself.

When reporter Lisa Twyman visited her this spring, Gibb was finishing the clay model from which the bronze figures were cast. "There is clay under her fingernails," Twyman writes, "classical music on the radio, the smell of nutmeg coming from the kitchen. She is 41, but only a few lines around her steel-blue eyes give this away. Her hair is a tousled mane of streaked blonde, and she usually wears sweat pants and a bulky sweater. Her home is a comfortably cluttered place with yellow legal pads lying amid books, road-weary running shoes, busts of Einstein and Jimmy Carter that she did and the nearly completed clay figure of the woman runner.

"The classical music stops. The disc jockey says he's going to lunch, and the station transmits only dead air. 'Rockport is full of eccentrics,' Gibb says, her smile indicating that she includes herself among them.

"She turns her attention again to the clay figure. She modeled it partly after New Zealand marathoner Allison Roe, whose running form Gibb considers nearly perfect. But the figure has something in common with its creator, too: It seems to be having fun. One imagines Roberta Gibb running through the woods, wild and free."

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