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How Two Women Changed Boston Marathon History

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BOSTON (CBS) – Thousands of runners are celebrating a milestone, marking 40 years since women were officially allowed to run in the Boston Marathon.

Of course, there were women pioneers out there running Boston before it was official.

Roberta Gibb’s heart led her to Boston. Running the marathon was a special goal particularly after she was denied an official number.

In 1966 Gibb became the first woman to finish the Boston Marathon. Back home in California, after the race that achievement ran head-on into reality.

“All of the reporters were at my house,” recalls Gibb. “They wanted me to put on the dress and cook fudge so they could say the shapely blonde housewife, which is what they called me, was a real woman.”

Conventional wisdom held that running was dangerous for women and could affect fertility. That didn’t worry Sara Mae Berman. By the time she started running she had three kids. Her husband was her coach and her biggest supporter. He told her she could be a pioneer.

“(Roberta) was a pioneer, I was a pioneer, all of the early women marathoners, we were all pioneers,” says Berman.

These days, thousands of women run Boston, owing no small debt to these two pioneers who are beyond glad that both attitudes and clothing have changed so much in 40 years.

“They didn’t have jog bras,” says Roberta. “I wore a tank top bathing suit. I wore my brother’s Bermuda shorts tied with a string.”

And what advice would they give this year’s runners?

“Follow your passion, do what you love and run as fast as you can run,” says Gibb.

“It’s a joyful experience to be among the sports people that are sharing this wonderful physical experience,” says Berman.

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