“Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon” Written by Annette Bay Pimentel. Illustrated by Micha Archer. Published by Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, NYC, 2018. $17.99. Children’s picture book.

Thank you, Bobbi Gibb.

In 1966 the 23-year-old woman from Massachusetts laced up a pair of boy’s running shoes, sprang from some bushes in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, and proceeded to set a record that can never be beat. She was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. And she did it in defiance of race officials who proclaimed women were incapable of running any such distance. In fact, she and all women were banned.

Today, according to Penguin Random House publishers, more than 220,000 women have run in U.S. marathons. And while they may not even be aware of it, they owe some small part of their feat to Bobbi Gibb. Now living in Rockport, Massachusetts, Gibb goes about her full life quietly and with the same purpose she displayed early on. She’s an accomplished sculptor and she’s an author. She’s a lawyer and researcher interested in neurodegenerative diseases, specifically ALS.

And running out-of-doors, in nature, in all four seasons has remained among her passions into her 70s.

“Boys have responded just as strongly as girls to the story of Bobbi Gibb,” says Annette Bay Pimentel, author of a new children’s picture book titled “Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon.”

“Kids see the ban as ridiculous. Hers is not a gender story but a universal story. Kids are aghast that Bobbi wasn’t allowed to run. They don’t understand that world. It’s been fun for me to show them how one individual can change the world.”

The book’s release coincided with the winter Olympics and the #MeToo insurgence. It highlights the literal and figurative distance women have come, often putting them at odds with the status quo. The colorful picture book, with illustrations by Micha Archer, garnered a starred review from Kirkus. The bold, happy illustrations evoke a joy for running that has energized Gibb from her youth.

“I was intrigued by someone who quietly ran the marathon, inspiring others who followed,” says Pimentel. “She was so filled with joy, and unwilling to let others take that spirit away from her. This joy of running and joy of life spoke to me. She simply and quietly went about pursuing what she wanted.”

The book traces Gibb’s early love of running. She couldn’t find running wear for girls, so she bought nurse’s shoes and made do with swimsuits and her brother’s Bermuda shorts. “I bring visual aids with me to the schools to help the kids see how inventive she was,” says Pimentel. “She was a huge problem-solver, and flexible, not rigid. She would just go with what worked.”

The book describes how Gibb, a runner since childhood, watched the marathon that passed near her home. She decided to train and run it herself. When she requested an application from the Boston Athletic Association, she was told it was against the rules and that women were not physiologically able to run a marathon. She trained throughout all seasons and even ran across the country by driving herself in a van and stopping to run every day. She considered 15 or 20 miles an easy run and challenged herself to run 30 or 40 miles at a time. Nonetheless, officially sanctioned races limited women to competitions of 1.5 miles or less.

On the day of the 1966 marathon, Gibb snuck into the starting lineup wearing a sweatshirt to disguise herself. Soon people caught on and word of her participation spread. Gov. John Volpe met her at the finish line and shook her hand. She completed the race in 3 hours and 21 minutes, finishing 124th out of 540, with two-thirds of the men still behind her. Despite the accomplishment, women were not authorized to run until the 1972 Boston Marathon.

“Every year after 1966, more and more women snuck in,” says Pimentel. “As women join together, through voices or running feet, change can happen. Joining together, we can make a difference.”

Pimentel says that after presenting her new book to a second-grade class, the girls rushed to recess pretending to be Bobbi Gibb.

“What the book is about for me is the story of an individual, of how an ordinary person can nudge the world in such a way that it changes the world. Her story is a wonderful celebration of the human spirit. Even if there are forces pushing against you, if you are courageous enough, you can change the world.”

Another colorful children’s book about Bobbi Gibb, “The Girl Who Ran,” was published by Compendium in 2017. Gibb has authored the following books available online: “Wind in the Fire,” “To Boston with Love,” and “26.2 Essays.”

— Rae Padilla Francoeur can be reached at Rae@RaeFrancoeur.com.