First woman to run the marathon

in 1966 Bobbi Gibb of Winchester became the first woman to complete the Boston Marathon (above). Gibb is now raising funds for the Angel Fund.

WINCHESTER– This year marks the 50th anniversary of Winchester native Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb’s history-making marathon run as the first woman to run the entire Boston Marathon.

Gibb, who is training to run the 2016 Boston Marathon after a hiatus of several years, will dedicate her anniversary to those who no longer can run by raising funds for The Angel Fund for ALS Research, a nonprofit organization dedicated to funding ALS research at the Cecil B. Day Laboratory for Neuromuscular Research at the UMass Medical Center in Worcester.

Gibb, who made history in 1966 by finishing the race as the first woman to cross the finish line, also completed ahead of two-thirds of the pack of 415 official starters.

"In 1966, I ran to change people's beliefs about women,” Bobbi Gibb said. “Now I'm dedicating my 50th anniversary run to help those who can no longer run. My hope is to help to heal the world, starting with curing ALS, a devastating disease that has taken far too many people including one of my best friends."

Until 1972, when the first women's division marathon opened, the Boston Marathon was a men’s division race; all the women who ran before 1972 were, under the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) rules, unsanctioned runners, running in an as-yet-to-be sanctioned women’s division race.

Gibb, who had trained for two years to run the Boston Marathon, submitted an application in February 1966 to run the race, only to be told that women were not “physiologically capable of running marathon distances” and that under the rules that governed amateur sports set out by the AAU, women were not allowed to run more than a mile and a half competitively. Determined to participate, Gibb traveled from San Diego by bus to her parents’ home in Winchester. The following day, Patriots Day, April 19, 1966, her mother dropped her off at the start of the 26.2-mile marathon for her history-making run.

Gaining support along the way, from men and women alike, Bobbi was greeted by then-Governor John Volpe after crossing the finish line in three hours, twenty-one minutes and forty seconds.

Gibb hopes to raise $26,200 for The Angel Fund through a fundraising page which has been created for those who wish to recognize her accomplishments.

Based in Wakefield, the Angel Fund is an independent non-profit charity dedicated to supporting ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) investigations at the Cecil B. Day Laboratory for Neuromuscular Research at UMass Medical Center in Worcester, MA, internationally recognized for its ground-breaking work in the fight against this devastating illness. The laboratory is under the direction of world renowned ALS researcher Dr. Robert H. Brown, Jr.

The Angel Fund accomplishes this mission through fundraising events and campaigns; acting as a conduit to the Day Lab for funds raised by associated events, and through public awareness.

The Angel Fund was established in 1997 by Ginny Delvecchio, herself an ALS patient. Ginny knew ALS all too well: both her mother and her brother had died of the same illness. Ginny’s spirit prevailed, however, and she worked tirelessly raising awareness of ALS and funds for research until the disease robbed her of the ability to do so. She died of ALS in August of 1998.

Since Ginny’s death, the Angel Fund has attracted growing support. It is infused with the energy and commitment of people, many of them personally touched by the tragedy of ALS, who are determined to prevail against this disease.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is sometimes known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease after the baseball great who died of it in 1942. Gehrig’s celebrity status generated some public awareness about this relatively obscure but devastating disease.

ALS is a progressive and ultimately fatal neurological disease that attacks the motor neurons in the brain, brain stem and spinal cord. The resulting motor neuron loss causes increasingly debilitating paralysis as the muscles of the body waste away. Death comes when victims lose critical functions such as the ability to swallow and ultimately, to breathe.

ALS is particularly insidious because the intellect remains intact throughout the course of the disease. Victims are cruelly aware of their fate as they gradually lose the ability to control their muscles, to communicate, and eventually to breathe.

An estimated 30,000 Americans, alive and apparently well today, will die from ALS. ALS can strike anyone—of any age, ethnic origin or gender. Approximately 90 percent of cases appear sporadic, while 5-10 percent of cases are familial, occurring more than once in a family. ALS typically appears in middle age and most victims die within two to five years of the onset.

The cause of ALS is unknown. There is no known effective preventative treatment, and there is no known cure. There is, however, promising research currently underway. Your support can help advance this important work to find a cure for ALS.

You can contribute to Bobbi’s anniversary by going to Firstgiving.com/angelfund or if you would like more information you may call The Angel Fund for ALS Research at 781-245-7070 or go to the website at www.theangelfund.org.

(2) comments

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