The NYC Marathon: The Great Race Exhibit, by Jeff Benjamin


george, jeff and fred.jpgGeorge Hirsch, Chairman of NYRR, with Jeff Benjamin, in front of Fred Lebow Exhibit

Jeff Benjamin has been texting me for the past week, reminding me about this story and where he would like the pictures to be placed. This looked like a wonderful event and Jeff, as one of our most enduring writers and observers for RunBlogRun (before that, American Track & Field and American Athletics), captured the excitement and the history of the event.

Make sure that you see the exhibit if you can!

The NYC Marathon: The Great Race Exhibit
NYRR two presidents.jpgNYRR Co-Presidents Mike Capiraso and Peter Ciaccia, photo by Jeff Benjamin

By Jeff Benjamin

On October 29, 2015, the New York Road Runners played host to a gala of friends and supporters at the Museum of the City of New York. The event? The first ever exhibition showing the historical growth of the New York City Marathon. This evolution, which was begun, according to Race director and New York Road Runners Co-President Peter Ciaccia, "by a small group of dedicated nutty runners", began with the first race through 4 1/2 loops of Central Park involving around 55 finishers. The exhibit then shows how this off-beat event went truly mainstream, as the race changed in 1976 into the 5-borough extravaganza with 50,000 participants running this upcoming Sunday.
alberto salazar.jpgAlberto Salazar, photo by Jeff Benjamin

The exhibit, which runs through (pardon the pun) March of 2016 and was curated by Sean Corcoran, first welcomes the visitors to life size portraits and informational boxes of some of the iconic champions. But one must also pass the life size image of Fred Lebow, who, as NYRR President, created his vision of the first NY marathon in 1970, and then helped make reality the idea of the Five Borough event, beginning in 1976.
katherine switzer.jpgKatherine Switzer, photo by Jeff Benjamin

Alongside Lebow, on both sides of the wall were some of the champions as well, including Bill Rodgers, Paul Tergat, Women's pioneer Kathrine Switzer, Alberto Salazar, German Silva, along with other parts of the living history of the New York City Marathon. Visitors then entered a room which displayed a plethora of photographs taken by both professional and amateurs through the 35 year history. Runners of all abilities, volunteers, event makers and the different neighborhoods were all displayed, celebrating how, in NYC, all comes together every year for the race. Alongside one wall was a chronological time-line showing key events which took place in the Marathon's growth and legacy.
gary murckhe.jpgGary Muhrcke, photo by Jeff Benjamin
Alongside this collage of photos was a series of real great short video segments of races past, as footage was shown of Rodgers and Olympic Champ Frank Shorter from the 1976 contest, along with the victories of Waitz, Silva (which included the infamous "wrong turn"), Radcliffe, Salazar, along with the most dramatic victory of all- New Zealander Olympian Rod Dixon's come from behind victory over Geoff Smith, in the rain-soaked 1983 race.

The NYRR has always been known for trying to balance the relationship between the competitive athletes and the recreational runner. In this exhibit, both facets have been very duly noted. If one is looking for inspiration in this upcoming New York City Marathons, or you're looking to connect with old friends from years past, albeit symbolically, then this exhibit is worth the visit!

Cool-Down- Alongside Peter Ciaccia was NYRR Co-President Michael Capiraso, who ran his 25th NY Marathon on November 1. "I was already told by both Peter and George Hirsch (NYRR Chairman) that I have to run under 4 hours so I can continue to work on the race!", he jokingly said.
George Hirsch is hosted an event at the exhibit on Halloween (October 31, 2015), called "Winning the NY Marathon." Bill Rodgers and German Silva will be joining him--further info--

Personal note- it was real nice to see Longtime NYRR officer Peter Roth, who served in a variety of NYRR positions through the years.

Another great personal thrill was the wall-size picture picture of Gary Muhrcke winning the first NY Marathon in 1970.
The person behind him as he crossed the crowded finish line?
Longtime NYRR competitor, co-founder and legendary race announcer the Late, Great Kurt Steiner!!

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