Jeff Benjamin wrote this piece on the very moving Hall of Fame entries for 2017. It was a wonderful afternoon: fine tributes, and great attendance to honor Dr. Norb Sander, Tom Fleming, Orlando Pizzolato, Lornah Kiplagat, Ryan Hall, Tim Layden (GH Journalism Award) and Meb Kefelzighi (Abebe Bekele Award). Here’s Jeff’s observations on this fine afternoon.
NYRR Hall Of Fame Inductions- Past & Present Trailblazers Honored- By Jeff Benjamin- 11/4
It was a day to celebrate the present and future. But also with a look at the past.
Such was the tone set in the NYRR Central Park Pavillion for the annual Hall of Fame Induction ceremonies, an event attended by family and longtime friends.
In this class of 2017 five noteworthy athletes were honored along with track writer Tim Layden, who was justly presented with the George Hirsch Excellence in Journalism award.
Among the athletes honored were the late Norb Sander and Tom Fleming, along with Orlando Pizzolato, Lornah Kiplagat, and Ryan Hall.
Speaking about Dr. Norb Sander was longtime friend and NYRR stalwart Mike Frankfurt. “Norb was my best friend,” recounted Frankfurt, as he also emphasized Sander’s Running accomplishments. “He’s the only 5-borough native to win the NYC Marathon,” said Frankfurt Of Sanders’ 1974 Win. Sander was also a national class runner, as Frankfurt noted that he won marathons in Yonkers and New Orleans as well.
But it was his revitalization of the old 168th Street Armory which is Sanders’ Greatest contribution. “He performed a miracle on 168th Street,” Said Frankfurt. “He always said we gotta get it back for the kids.” Today, the indoor track has served meets of all levels, notably the annual NYRR Millrose Games. “And over 2 million children have used it.”
Marathon legend Bill Rodgers then spoke about his pal Tom Fleming. “You know Tom was a fierce competitor but also my friend,” said Rodgers afterward. “Friends are friends,” said Rodgers, remembering Fleming as the 2-time NYC Champion in 1973 & 1975 (who also sported a 2:12:05 Marathon PR at Boston) and averaged 170-200 miles per week in training and Championship Coach later on. “New York was my Dad’s favorite Marathon,” said daughter Margot in accepting her father’s award. “I don’t know how he did 4 laps in Central Park!”, said Fleming’s Daughter of the originally pre-1976 Central Park Race.
NYRR CEO & President then spoke of 1984 and 1985 NYC Champion Orlando Pizzolato, humoring the crowd with his assessment as a youngster back then watching the Italian win twice. “He was an Idol.”
Expanding upon Capiraso’s perceptions, NYRR Chairman George Hirsch recounted Pizzolato’s Victory in the heat of 1984, and his dramatic 1985 Victory, where he held himself back through halfway and then stormed to victory. “His strategy was brilliantly executed,” said Hirsch.
Pizzato then spoke of how his NYC victories changed everything for him in his home country. “I was honored by the Prime Minister and the Pope…it was a big event for Italians!”
Marathon Legend Paula Radcliffe then spoke of honoree Lornah Kiplagat, citing her various accomplishments, notably on the Olympic (3 times), World Championships (4 Times) along with her 4 wins at the NYRR women’s mini-Marathon 10K. “She’s also set an example to others,” said Radcliffe, as Kiplagat’s charity work for others was cited. Upon receiving her honor, Kiplagat said, “It’s important to encourage the new generation…by helping in Running you are helping others!”
To honor Ryan Hall, wife Sara stepped forward. “He’s fearless and lives with deep convictions,” said Sara of her husband, who holds the fastest marathon time ever held by an American (2:04:58 at the 2011 Boston Marathon).
Giving back has also been the mantra of the Halls, as they have also successfully created the Hall Steps Foundation.
As for Ryan, one sentence from his acceptance speech seemed to resonate among the other inductees and the audience, a statement not only for Runners but for all people in the Run with life. “It’s the people along the way.”
That’s exactly the philosophy which the NYRR has adopted with the Hall of Fame.