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
1976–(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
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: http://tinyurl.com/25yftpc
How The Five-Boro Race Began
Hickock Sports (inlcudes past winners)
Bill Rodgers Remembers 1976: http://www.nyrr.org/about/50_
Additional Video: http://www.sportsvideodaily.
Cloud of Dust Video: http://www.nyrr.org/about/50_
Wrong-Way Silva: http://tinyurl.com/ygonmhh
50 Great Moments in NYRR History(Videos): http://www.nyrr.org/about/50_
Information on the 2010 ING NY City Marathon, which will feature World Record holder Haile Gebrselassie: