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Gibb to race for a cure

Run to raise funds for ALS research

By Barbara Huebner, Globe Staff, 4/12/2001

Roberta ''Bobbi'' Gibb is still going as strong as ever. Maybe not as fast, but definitely as strong.

''I'm running, smiling, feeling like I'm striding along the same as always, and it's taking twice as long as it used to,'' said Gibb, describing her training - mostly barefoot on the beaches of San Diego - to run in the 105th Boston Marathon Monday. It will be the 35th anniversary of her historic run in 1966, when she smashed a 70-year-old gender barrier to become the first woman to finish Boston, a year before Kathrine Switzer ran with an official number.

''It blew people's minds,'' Gibb recalled.

Gibb has run Boston only three times since that groundbreaking day, moving on to a life seasonally split between Rockport and San Diego as a lawyer, sculptor, and author. Most recently, she came back for the 100th anniversary (when she belatedly received an official finisher's medal). This time, she wanted to do something to honor Massachusetts General Hospital, which took good care of a friend dying of cancer in the early 1990s. When another friend was recently diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, she knew she had found her cause.

Without it, she said, ''I wasn't going to run. I made my point 35 years ago.''

But she is running, devoting herself to raising awareness of the Angel Fund. Established in 1999, the Angel Fund supports research into ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), a neuro-degenerative disorder for which there is no known cause or cure, at the Day Neuromuscular Research Laboratory at MGH. Death usually results from respiratory failure within 2-5 years of diagnosis.

''Once I talked with Scott,'' she said, ''I was practically in tears.''

Scott is Scott Carlson, who two years ago, at the age of 34, was diagnosed with ALS. After a lifetime of running (including the 100th Boston), triathlons, skiing, and surfing, Carlson has been forced to put his athletic pursuits behind him. Last year, eight of Carlson's friends ran the marathon on his behalf, raising more than $43,000 for the Angel Fund. This year, 20 runners, including Gibb and Carlson's wife, Hillary, are on the Run for ALS Team 2001 and hope to raise more than $100,000.

''Even if it takes me 10 hours to run this thing, I'm going to do it,'' said Gibb, who clocked her historic 1966 race in an unofficial 3:21:40. With her will be Ed Rice, former editor of the now-defunct Winchester Town Crier, who once ran 162 miles across Massachusetts in seven days to honor Ginny DelVecchio, the woman who started what became the Angel Fund before she died of ALS several years ago. ''Running is a celebration of life, the fact that we even exist,'' said Gibb. ''We take it all for granted, but I never take anything for granted. We all have a brief life.''

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In with the new

The start and finish areas of the Marathon will have a new look this year. In Hopkinton, runners will line up down Main Street as usual, but the last corrals will be on Grove Street rather than Hayden Rowe. On Boylston Street, runners will be able to exit the finish line area at Berkeley Street rather than having to go all the way to Arlington ... If race director Dave McGillivray sounds hoarse this weekend, it's not merely from lack of sleep. McGillivray will undergo surgery soon after the Marathon to have a noncancerous cyst removed from his vocal cords ... What may well become a new tradition began last night at the Hampshire House with ''Cheers to the Boston Marathon,'' an opening ceremony of sorts that included the presentation of the champions' olive wreaths by George Chatzimichalakis, consul general of Greece, to the city of Boston.

© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.

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