The crowd on the Verranzano Narrows, November 1, 2015, photo by PhotoRun.net
On my entrance into the Tavern on the Green on Wednesday, the first person I saw coming out of a taxi was Peter Ciaccia. On my departure on Sunday evening, from the Media Pavilion, the last person I saw, with his medal around his neck, was Micheal Capiraso.
George Hirsch was correct when he said that Mary Wittenberg left the NYRR in better shape than ever, and that Micheal Capiraso and Peter Ciaccia were a seemless transition.
I also believe that Micheal and Peter showed the world that the NYRR meant business and could continue to build on the firm foundation set by Ted Corbit, Fred Lebow, Allan Steinfeld and Mary Wittenberg, to name a few.
Here is Elliott Denman’s fine piece on Peter Ciaccia and the vibrancy of the New York Road Runners.
PETER CIACCIA STORY
By ELLIOTT DENMAN
Fred Lebow, Allan Steinfeld, Mary Wittenberg….Peter Ciaccia.
Peter who, you ask?
Well, that question is perfectly understandable.
New York Road Runners chieftains Lebow, Steinfeld and Wittenberg were public figures,
guardians and celebrants of The Big Apple’s single busiest annual athletic event, the event
they built, step by patient step, into the giant that led their whole sport to global status
as the “the next big thing.”
Yes, and an event that continues leaving any other “next” candidates in the dust
while its own status continues to escalate to bigger, greater renown on a daily basis.
Lebow built on the pioneering NYC efforts of Ted Corbitt, Harry Murphy, Joe Kleinerman,
Kurt Steiner, et al, in bringing road running in from the cold of racing Bronx laps around
Yankee Stadium, the Macombs Dam Park circuit, and assorted Harlem River-hugging Sedgwick
Avenue routes, to the bigger-time of Manhattan’s Central Park, and eventually to the entire core
of The Big Apple.
His own health sagging – and heroically battling the brain cancer that would eventually take
him away – Lebow passed the baton to his former understudy, Steinfeld, who continued
growing the product and the technical intricacies of the sport as a whole.
And, when the reins were passed to Wittenberg, it all skyrocketed.
Mega-media attention; mega-buck sponsorships; mega-fields of racers; mega-reachout to partnerships with similar races which had, in large part, modeled their own global successes on the NYC model,
and mega-innovative involvements with the citizenery in its own backyard marked her
But after 17 years at NYRR, she, too, began seeking out other horizons, and announced she
was stepping away earlier this year.
So, what to do? Where to look? Who, when and how?
George Hirsch, the New York Road Runners board chairman, and his fellow board
members, were indeed fortunate. They did not have far to look. The changeover would be,
as Hirsch put it, “seamless.”
Promotion came from within and the capable pair of Peter Ciaccia and
Michael Capiraso was right there, waiting in the wings.
The top responsibilities on NYRR’s management team will now be shared, the board
Michael Capiraso and Peter Ciaccia, photo courtesy of NYRR
Both carry “presidential” titles.
Capiraso, 52, who had played a variety of roles within NYRR, most recently as brand marketing,
communications and business development director, will now be president/CEO
of the organization as a whole. Oh, and he’s an active 26-miler himself, a sub-4-hour man with 24 straight NYC completions to his credit.
And Ciaccia, 61 – pronounce it “Cha-Cha, just like the dance,” he tells you, who had been chief production officer and technical director of the marathon, will now be president/events for NYRR, and race director of the marathon. In short, the hands-on guy who’d get it all done, and shoulder the woes if they didn’t.
The happy report is there were no woes whatsoever for the 45th edition of the Tata Consultancy Services-sponsored, 42.2-kilometer, 50,000-plus-runner “block party” that ran from Staten Island to the finish line at 67th Street on Central Park’s West Drive on the first Sunday of November, 2015.
“We stand on the shoulders of the folks (Lebow, Steinfeld, Wittenberg, etc.) that put this
together,” Ciaccia said in a Marathon Media Center interview.
“The technical part of this race is still attributed to what they did. Think of the genius of having a starting line on the Verrazano Bridge, which is actually three starting lines that come together (in Brooklyn); we haven’t changed it that much all these years, the city may build a sidewalk here, a pedestrian mall there, and we may have to jiggle it a little, but that’s about it.
“I’ll always tell that to my new technical director, Jim Heim; I’ll sit him down and remind him that those people were geniuses. Allan (Steinfeld) was a genius, Ted Corbitt was a genius. Sometimes we still
see some of their old measurements.
“It’s a privilege just to work in this business. To be able to be in this position now is just a phenomenal experience and a very great honor.
“Mary (Wittenberg) and I worked together for 14 years and we did a lot together. We always had visions about growing the marathon.”
It’s the NYRR’s year-round programs, though, that have gone through the greatest growth spurts.
“You know, we have NYRR races every week throughout the year,” he continues.
“The weekly races support what we’re doing in the communities all year long. We want to continue building events like the United Airlines New York City Half, the Airbnb Brooklyn Half, and all the others.
“The Brooklyn Half was the biggest half in the country this year, but that didn’t happen overnight.
“We went out and studied how we could do that. So instead of starting at Coney Island, we worked with the city, and reversed the course so it would finish there (Coney Island.)
“We made it a kickoff to the summer and (with a field of over 25,000) it’s been a huge success.
“So we’re not just about this one day in November.
“The sport of running is the only one where you can toe the line with a champion, or an
Olympian. You can be an average runner but you can be there with a Meb Keflezighi,
and how awesome is that?
“Of course, you’d probably not stay with him too long…..”
With pride, Ciaccia tells you, “we have a great professional athlete program here and we continue to elevate it, always looking to what’s best for the organization and best for the sport.
“We give them a platform to tell their story because their story allows us to tell our story.”
A native Bronxite, Ciaccia grew up in the Kingsbridge area and went on to St. John’s grammar school
and Mount St. Michael’s Academy, then Lehman College and NYU.
His scholastic football and track careers were intermittent.
“I played football (and ran) for coach Howie Borck (once a champion 800-meter runner) at the Mount; he was a football coach as well as track coach.
“I was on the track team there, but on and off. I loved football but everybody else got bigger, but I stayed the same size, so that pretty much was the end of my football career.
“I had to get out of there.
“But sports and athletics still kept us busy, in a good way. I loved sports, always have and always will.”
After college, he worked in the entertainment business and the music business, in artist development
and product development.
“Then I left that to start my own business, PC Management, still in product development.
“All along, I had been running in NYRR events, starting around age 35.
“I got into marathons, and everything else. I’ve run a handful of New Yorks, maybe
20-25 marathons total, but I wouldn’t call myself a competitor.
“My best is 3:15, 3:16, but that was on one of the flatter courses, London. I’d heard about the
cobblestones stones, so I found some cobblestones on the (Central Park) West Drive to train on, to get ready for London….but it didn’t help much.
“Now, I just run, whenever I can.
“I don’t really have the time to train, and don’t race any more
“This job keeps me very busy, as you can see.
” I don’t see it as a challenge, I see it as an opportunity.
” The sport here in New York is vibrant.”
Be reassured its leadership continues in vibrant hands.