Professor couple runs marathons together


Alex Fortuna

Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology and Quest Keke Gibb and Assistant Professor of International Studies, Political Science Ryan Gibb.

Story by Julia Sanders, Writer

Ryan Gibb, assistant professor of international studies, and Keke Gibb, visiting assistant professor of biology, are one of the many professor couples on Bakers campus. However, what makes them unique is their dedication to running marathons all around the world.

Keke began running at age 11 when cross country was one of the only sports she could participate in at her small middle school. Although she started running just so she could “do a sport,” she discovered a love for it that allowed her to be an NCAA Division I athlete at the University of Alabama, and it’s something she continues to do today.

Her first marathon was on her 18th birthday, but she says that each marathon is accompanied by a special memory.

“Probably one of the coolest races I’ve run was the Rome marathon,” Keke said. “Ryan and I got engaged at the race and ran it together all through the city of Rome.”

Although her current number is 10 marathons, she plans to run until her “legs fall off” and has run more than just marathons.

“I’ve run a couple 50k’s and one 50-miler to raise money for the ALS foundation in honor of my godfather,” Keke said.

While she is busy being a full-time professor and a new mom, she views running as a priority and uses the miles as encouragement.

“It feels good to get out, move your legs,” Keke said. “You can’t run for someone or for a reason because one day that reason won’t be enough.  The weather will be bad or your legs will hurt or you’ll be tired.  You have to run because you want to run, you have to run for yourself because you know you’ll feel better after than you would if you skipped it.”

Keke’s husband Ryan is also an avid runner who began running in graduate school.

“I did a half marathon and then a full marathon, and part of the attraction was that it’s tough to finish something in graduate school,” Ryan said. “It seems like everything is months and months and months long, but running you can feel good after you do it, you can knock it off in an hour and feel like you’ve accomplished something.”

After discovering enjoyment from running, he began an initiative to do 50 marathons in the 50 states by the age of 50. So far he has run marathons in Kansas, Utah, Colorado, Indiana, Oklahoma, Nebraska, South Dakota and Virginia. He has also run marathons in other parts of the world, including Rome and Uganda.

“My favorite part about running marathons is after that second mile when you fall into a groove and it’s almost meditation. Your body kind of takes over and you don’t notice some of the miles, they just go by,” Ryan said. “So you’re in the zone and all of the sudden you’re [at] mile 13 instead of mile 8, or the numbers 15 through 19 disappear. I like zoning out and it’s really cathartic.”

Students on and off the track team at Baker have run marathons and understand the difficulty it presents. Senior and marathon-runner Bailey Horlander is impressed with the Gibbs and understands their love for the sport.

“Marathon running is one of the most mentally and physically challenging things I’ve ever done,” Horlander said. “However, when you look back and think of each mile and all the training and people it takes you to get to the finish line that is the only moment that matters.”

Next year, Keke will be taking a full-time job at a local brewery in Lawrence and will no longer be a full-time faculty member at Baker. Even though she and Ryan will no longer be a professor couple at Baker, they will continue to share their love of doing marathons all around the world.