Nancy Feeney was 4 years old when Bobbi Gibb became the first woman to complete the Boston Marathon.

Johanna Stickney’s parents had not even met, and yet neither would be in position to compete in Monday’s race without Gibb’s historic 26.2-mile run.

“(Gibb) paved the way,” Feeney, 54, of Fayette, said. “I wouldn’t be running if she didn’t. It means a lot to run in the Boston Marathon.”

Monday’s race will mark the 50th anniversary of Gibb’s defiant April 19, 1966 run. She was denied entry into the race a few months prior — women’s races at the time were no longer than 1.5 miles because it was thought anything more could result in bodily harm — but that did not stop her.

Gibb — who will serve as the grand marshal of this year’s marathon — donned a hooded sweatshirt and hid in the bushes near the race’s start in Hopkinton before joining the field. She went on to finish ahead of 290 of the 415 men that arrived in Copley Square at the race’s conclusion that day.

On Monday, Feeney and Stickney will be two of the more than 14,000 women that will compete in the 120th running of the Boston Marathon.


“It’s amazing just to be here but to realize it’s only been five decades since that landmark is even more amazing,” Stickney, 33, of West Gardiner, said. “I feel privileged to be here and grateful for the women that paved the way.

“…It’s just really overwhelming, really inspiring.”

Fittingly enough, Stickney will be running in her first Boston Marathon on the 50th anniversary of Gibb’s act of defiance. Like so many in the region, the bombing at the finish line and subsequent spree of terror in 2013 personally affected Stickney.

Her brother, Andrew Morrison, 32, competed in the 2013 marathon as their mother, Jennifer, watched from the crowd, but fortunately both were gone by the time the bombs exploded.

“I had to run it and show my kids that we’re not afraid,” said Stickney, whose three daughters are each 7 years old or younger. “I had to keep running and I had to be here.”

Stickney ran track in high school before graduating from Cony in 2000. She took some time off from running in college, but got into distance running in 2009 and ran her first marathon in 2012.


“Running is an awesome way for women to show what they’re made of and prove themselves as strong people who can endure these long trials,” said Stickney, whose brothers, Andrew and Tom, and husband, Norman, will be there to cheer her on Monday. “I think we’ll continue to see advancement in the sport and it’s really wonderful to feel like you’re a part of that.

“…It’s kind of an act of defiance but one that’s really positive and healthy. I hope to teach my girls something about life.”

Family also played a role for Feeney, who will be running in her third straight Boston Marathon. She first started competing in the event at the urging of her three children, Justin, 32, Shawn, 27, and Casey, 23.

Initially she simply wanted to run in a marathon, so she trained and competed in the 2014 Bay of Fundy International Marathon not realizing it was a qualifier for Boston. Her time was good enough to make the field and her kids would not let her pass on the opportunity.

“My kids felt like it was an honor to run in the Boston Marathon and that I should run it,” said Feeney, who works in the advancement office at Kents Hill School. “People try to qualify for a long time.”

Like many in the field, Feeney will also be running for charity. The first year she competed she did so for Shriners Hospitals for Children in Boston and raised more than $4,000. Last year she ran with Team Fox and raised $5,040 for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s research.


“For me, the fundraising gives it so much more meaning,” said Feeney, who will once again be running for Team Fox on Monday. “I was inspired by two very dear friends that I had the privilege of working with at Kents Hill who are living with Parkinson’s.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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