The Last Old Lion: Man completes 43rd straight Richmond Marathon

The Last Old Lion: Gibrall completes 43rd Richmond Marathon

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The first Richmond Marathon was in 1978, and since then Philip Gibrall has been part of the event every step of the way - literally.

Gibrall completed his 43rd consecutive Richmond Marathon last Saturday, the last runner to be able to claim that he’s run in every single edition of the event. It’s a journey that started in 1978 when he and some of his friends saw an advertisement in the newspaper for the inaugural race.

“We thought ‘that sounds like a fun thing to do. We’ve got five or six weeks to get ready for it. Let’s do it!,'” recalled Gibrall. “Nobody had running shoes. They were running in tennis shoes or basketball shoes or whatever they had.”

As the years passed, the group became known as the “Old Lions"- runners who had taken part in every single Richmond Marathon. Six of them still ran the race in 2012 and over the years that number dropped to four. Last year, Gibrall and Bill Smith were the only remaining two still running the marathon, and 2020 saw Gibrall as the lone lion carrying the torch.

“I can’t say that I went 43 years without health problems,” he said. “I had several health problems, but was lucky enough to get through the races in spite of the problems.”

Of course, the annual event has changed a lot since that first year, never more so than the 2020 version. Gibrall noted the difference in the course, but perhaps what he’ll miss the most is that race-day atmosphere, where streets are lined with spectators to fuel the runners on.

“You see family, you see friends and whether anybody wants to admit it or not, when you do see them they do give you a little bit of extra energy,” Gibrall said.

The longtime marathon runner says he hopes to make it to 50 Richmond Marathons, but as of now, he feels fortunate to have completed number 43. He still receives plenty of support from the Old Lions who no longer take part, and had a group of family and high school friends there to greet him at the finish line last Saturday.

Registration for the Richmond Marathon, Richmond Half-Marathon and 8K is still open. You can get more information and sign up here.

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