1.5 miles. That was the maximum distance women were permitted to run, per the Amateur Athletic Union in 1966. According to them, women were physiologically incapable of running a marathon and allowing them to compete in the Boston Marathon was too much of a liability.

So when Bobbi Gibb received the notice that she was disqualified from participating, her desire to cross the finish line only grew. Only 23 years old, she did just that. She crashed the race by hiding in a bush near the starting line and finished with a time of three hours, 21 minutes, and 40 seconds. She managed to break through not only the finish line but a glass ceiling for women runners everywhere.

With the 127th Boston Marathon coming up this Monday, this week’s edition of the Joy Beat celebrated the incredible Bobbi Gibb, who is now 80. She joined All Things Considered host Arun Rath to discuss her feat and her life. What follows is a lightly edited transcript.

Arun Rath: We talked several years ago; it’s great to talk again. Starting off, we know the historic story of hiding in the bushes and slipping into the stream of runners, but I think it’s hard for people now to imagine what it was like in terms of what you were facing because it seems insane now that women were not allowed to run the marathon. Tell us what you were up against. What was the level of hostility?

Bobbi Gibb: Unbelievable. I mean, it’s really unbelievable. I was born in the middle of World War II. During the 1950s, when I was a kid growing up, I could see the life pattern that women were forced to lead and how unhappy they were. My own mother was drinking wine and taking tranquilizers. She had dreamed of being a reporter and traveling the world, and here she was, washing dishes and scrubbing floors. Her greatest joy was picking what kind of curtain to put in the living room.

Women were thought to be incapable mentally and physically of just about everything except having babies. Men were supposed to be rational and not show emotions or be sensitive to things within. Women were thought to be very irrational and weak in body and mind.

I mean, it was so ridiculous to have these stereotypes. We have the right to become all of who we are. We were forced into these silly stereotypes and weren’t able to fulfill our full destinies, so I rebelled against this. It was a fact that a professional woman was looked upon as an oddity in those days.

Rath: So, when 23-year-old you was there, crouching and hiding in the bushes, how worried were you about what the reaction would be from other runners and spectators when they would realize, as they ultimately did, that you were a woman?

Gibb: I didn’t know what I was getting into. I knew I was doing something I wasn’t allowed to do. I was afraid I might be arrested. I knew if the officials saw me, they’d throw me out. The other runners could be hostile. They could easily shoulder me off the course. The spectators could be hostile. Sometimes, when you do something this far outside the social norm, people can be hostile, so I didn’t know what I was getting into.

I had my brother’s sweatshirt on with the hood pulled up. I thought, once I get into the race, I’ll see what the situation is. By that time, I knew I was going to make a social statement, but I had this weight of responsibility because I knew if I tried this and I failed, it was going to set women back another 50 or more years. I thought if I can prove this false belief about women is wrong, then it’ll throw into question all the other false beliefs that have been used for decades—for centuries—to keep women locked up in this little box where they’re not allowed to fulfill their destinies, or develop their potentials, or know just about anything. It was very, very limiting.

Rath: You were so young, but it sounds like you had a really good grasp of what a big deal this was.

Gibb: Yeah, it’s sort of like Thoreau’s tradition of civil disobedience; when you see something is wrong, that’s unjust and making everybody miserable, you almost have an obligation to try to make it right. I’ve always spent my life trying to make the world better for everyone.

Rath: Tell us about how everyone, the runners and the crowd, reacted in the end.

Gibb: Well, at first, the men didn’t realize I was a woman. I was running along and keeping up with them. The men behind studying my anatomy from the rear—I have to give them credit—figured out I was a woman. I could hear them talking. They’d say, “Well, I wish my girlfriend would run. I wish my wife would run.”

I mean, these men were very supportive and friendly. They were like my brothers. I said, “I’m afraid if I take off this shirt, they’ll see I’m a woman and throw me out.”

These guys said, “We won’t let them throw you out. It’s a free road.” They were protective and friendly and nice. I want people to understand that sometimes they get the wrong idea. The men were not hostile at all.

Rath: It seems like a piece of this is how good the marathon is as a sport. If your competitor falls down, in what other sport do you stop to help them up?

Gibb: It’s amazing. It’s the most democratic of all sports, which I love. I’m in love with democracy and human rights and everything that means: freedom for the individual, respect and autonomy and the Bill of Rights. All people would be so much better off if we all had human rights and weren’t threatened by each other.

Rath: We’ve come a long way since 1966, but obviously, we’re not where we should be. What’s your take on where we are and your sense of progress right now?

Gibb: I see the next step as a raising of human consciousness worldwide, which includes, of course, gender consciousness and becoming more loving and aware of our place in the universe. When you look at the care that goes into everything to make one molecule, one atom, one photon—the care, the exquisite care and detail are just incredible.

It has to be coming from love. It’s not coming from hate. It’s not coming from fear. It’s coming from love. When you tune into that love, you feel that that’s the basis of joy. That’s the basis of joy in your life and your sense of wonder, your sense of “Wow, we’re alive on planet earth.” Isn’t that great? Let’s celebrate.