By Jimmy Golen
AP Sports Writer
BOSTON — Atsede Baysa learned a little about the Boston Marathon’s history a few days before she ran in it, hearing how Bobbi Gibb was turned down for a spot in the 1966 event but ran anyway to show that women could handle the 26.2 miles.
Then, after winning the race, Baysa asked if she could meet with Gibb.
On Tuesday morning, Baysa presented Gibb with the 2016 Boston Marathon trophy — a silver cup she had earned on Boylston Street less than 24 hours earlier. Because Gibb, who also ran in 1967 and ‘68, came before women were officially allowed to enter, she never received a trophy of her own after any of her three first-place finishes.
“She’s inspiring for us, being women and runners,” Baysa said. “Now we are running around the globe. Her story is very touching.”
Fifty years after Gibb broke the Boston Marathon’s gender barrier, the Boston Athletic Association recognized the accomplishment by making her the grand marshal of the 120th edition of the race. The free-spirited lawyer-turned-sculptor rode a sports car into Copley Square on Monday before stepping out to break a ceremonial finish line tape.
Soon after, Baysa followed in her footsteps — and not for the first time.
The two-time Chicago Marathon winner made up a deficit of about 200 yards with less than five miles to go, passing the leaders on Beacon Street in Brookline before pulling away to win in 2 hours, 29 minutes, 19 seconds. Lemi Berhanu Hayle completed Ethiopia’s first sweep on Monday when he won the men’s race in 2:12:45, moving past defending champion Lelisa Desisa to win by 47 seconds.
Desisa also won the race three years ago, just a couple of hours before two homemade bombs at the finish line killed three people and wounded more than 260 others. In recognition of the tragedy, he donated his 2013 victory medal to the city of Boston.
Baysa also had trouble holding onto her prize.
Boston Athletic Association spokesman Jack Fleming said that Baysa told race organizers of her plan Monday, shortly after receiving the trophy.
“We wanted to make sure we understood her. We said, ‘Why don’t you sleep on it?’” he said Tuesday. “But she woke up this morning and said, ‘Yes.’”
A singer back in Ethiopia — by request, she regaled reporters with an Oromo song at the news conference — Baysa said she felt a connection with Gibb as a fellow artist. Gibb’s next project is a sculpture that would recognize the women in the Boston Marathon history, one that would join the several sculptures of men already dotting the course.
Gibb said she would only keep the trophy for one year because Baysa deserved to have it. “I was so impressed with what she did” in the race, Gibb said.
B.A.A. president Joann Flaminio, the first woman to lead the organization, said Baysa’s victory was a fitting conclusion to a year that celebrated a half-century of women in the race.
At the Champions Breakfast over the weekend, several women joined Gibb to tell their stories. Three-time winner Uta Pippig was so moved that she registered for this year’s race on Sunday and ran on Monday. She finished in 3:39, crying as she crossed over the special logo painted on the street to commemorate the 50 years since Gibb’s first run.
“We are so proud of all that’s happened, Bobbi, and so happy that you are getting the recognition you deserve,” Flaminio said.
In his usual day-after statistical rundown, race director Dave McGillivray said nearly half the 27,487 runners who started the race were women.
“That’s 1 percent growth every year,” he joked. “After another 50 years, it’s going to be an all-women’s race.”
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