This Day in Track & Field, October 24, ING NYCM, by Walt Murphy, note by Larry Eder

              Verranzano Bridge, Start of the 2009 ING NYCM, photo by

The ING NYCM will celebrate its fourtieth anniversary this year. From humble beginnings, being five loops around Central Park in 1970, the race became a race of five boroughs through the eccentric genius of Fred Lebow and a large cast of friends!

NYRR club's Fred Lebow's vision, and his sponsors' belief of that vision (including George Hirsch, who was publishing New Times and did the race program), made the great city marathons, half marathons and the running community that we have today.

Way back in 1977, in Mariah magazine, John Jerome waxed poetically about Frank Shorter's run in Munich, " by putting twenty-six five minute miles together, Frank Shorter invented running...." . To paraphrase John Jerome, by moving the ING NYRR marathon from Central Park to the five boroughs, Fred Lebow, Allan Steinfeld and their supporters re-invented the marathon...

In the following article,Walt Murphy, who is found at most ING NYCM marathons, tells us about the 1976 race, won by Bill Rodgers....see you in NYC in two weeks!

This Day in Track & Field

October 24

--(The ING NY City Marathon  will celebrate its 40th Anniversary on Sunday, November 7)
It was on this day in the Bicentennial year that the NY City Marathon moved from its humble beginnings in Central Park to embrace all five boroughs of the Big Apple.
     1976 U.S. Olympians Frank Shorter (who won a silver medal at the Montreal Olympics 3 months earlier to go with the gold he won in 1972) and Bill Rodgers were persuaded to compete, giving the race instant credibility, and they were joined by 2,000 additional runners at the starting line on the Staten Island side of the Verrazano Bridge. Rodgers went on to capture the first of his four consecutive titles in New York in 2:10:10, while Shorter, who entered more out of curiosity than a desire to run well, finished a respectable 2nd in 2:13:12.(It was later learned that Shorter ran the race with a fractured bone in his ankle!). Tom Fleming, the winner in Central Park in 1973 and 1975, was 6th in 2:16:52. Miki Gorman won the women's race in 2:39:11, with Doris Brown (Heritage) finishing 2nd in 2:53:20.
     The race almost finished without the presence of the visionary event director, Fred Lebow, who barely avoided getting arrested after arguing with a police officer about the correct placing of barricades that were supposed to direct the runners as they progressed from Brooklyn to Queens! (From Peter Gambaccini's
"The New York City Marathon-Twenty Five Years")
     The race was deemed a success by runners and city officials alike, and the event is now one of the greatest sporting spectacles and has been an inspiration for similar big-city marathons around the world.
     I have been privileged to work as an official for the NY Road Runners at all 40 previous marathons(might have missed one in the early days, but my memory fails me), with roles ranging from a timer at the first one in Central Park in1970 to escorting the winners to the victory stand. But one of the most fun things I get to do all year has to do with my current position, which began almost 30 years ago.  I get to ride on the men's timing vehicle and record the leaders and splits at all of the mile and 5-kilometer markers. It's a great way to see the race and a great way to enjoy the same thrill the runners get while moving through the crowds along the magnificent course. All without breaking a sweat, of course.    
     The one problem with this role is that I rarely get to see the finish of a race! All of the vehicles that are involved in the convoy that travels just ahead of the lead runners have to get off the course well before the winner approaches the finish line in Central Park. At about the 25-mile mark, all of the drivers pick up speed and are directed into the parking lot at the now-closed Tavern on the Green, the legendary NY restaurant that served as the event's headquarters during race week.
     But that doesn't mean I haven't witnessed some memorable moments over the years. In 1982(also on this day), before the entry route into Central Park was changed, the runners had to cross a bare patch of lawn before entering the park's roadway. Our vehicle, along with the accompanying police motorcycles and press trucks, kicked up a cloud of dust that the leaders had to pass through. Emerging from that cloud, as if in a scene from a movie, was Alberto Salazar, who had edged ahead of Mexico's Rodolfo Gomez after a race-long battle. Salazar, the 2-time defending champion, went on to win his 3rd NYC title in 2:09:29 with Gomez finishing a close 2nd in 2:09:33.
     In 1994, Mexico's German Silva was running shoulder-to-shoulder with countryman and training partner Benjamin Paredes on the street outside the park with less than a mile to go in the race. Instead of continuing on a straight path, Silva followed the lead vehicles, which were now at the end of their day, into the park. Silva saw the waving arms and the look of panic on everyone's face, quickly corrected his mistake, and went on to catch Paredes, winning in 2:11:21.                  
     Until recently, the vehicle I rode in was a traditional automobile, with the back seat taken out and at least four people, including myself and two local radio announcers, sitting in a cramped style for more than two hours. But at least we were protected from the elements.
     For the last few years, we have been using a tiered, open-air, truck that is more comfortable (except for the occasional low-lying tree branch), but I dread the day when the weather gods are angry. But hey, why complain when I've got the best seat in the house?
NY Times Coverage:
How The Five-Boro Race Began

Hickock Sports (inlcudes past winners)

Bill Rodgers Remembers 1976:
          Additional Video:
Cloud of Dust Video:
Wrong-Way Silva:
50 Great Moments in NYRR History(Videos):

          Information on the 2010 ING NY City Marathon,  which will feature  World Record holder Haile Gebrselassie:

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