New York Road Runners has a rich history. Over the past 55 years, we've grown from a local running club to a global champion of the running movement. We are the world's premier community running organization, and our efforts and events serve all runners and active individuals.
New York Road Runners was founded in 1958 in Macombs Dam Park in the Bronx as a running club with about 40 members who, led by African American Olympian Ted Corbitt, opened their ranks to all: men and women, white and black, fast and slow. Growth was gradual; there were about 250 members in 1970, the year that NYRR staged the first New York City Marathon in Central Park.
Marathon co-founder Fred Lebow took over as NYRR president in 1972 and helped lead the "running boom" that was sweeping the country. In 1976, NYRR took the marathon to the five boroughs of New York City. Also launched between 1972 and 1981 were the NYRR New York Mini 10K (the first all-women road race), the Midnight Run, the Empire State Building Run-Up, and the 5th Avenue Mile. By 1980, NYRR membership had topped 20,000.
NYRR recruited the world's top runners to our events, including Grete Waitz, who won the New York City Marathon nine times between 1978 and 1988. NYRR races were among the first to offer open prize money to the top finishers. Membership soared to nearly 30,000 by the end of the decade.
Along with continued successes and growth, the 1990s brought heartbreak, as Lebow was diagnosed with brain cancer in 1990 and passed away in 1994. While in remission, he ran the 1992 New York City Marathon in 5:32:34 with Waitz by his side. Allan Steinfeld, the longtime marathon technical director, took over as race director and NYRR president and CEO. In 1998, NYRR began a commitment to youth fitness by launching running programs in several NYC middle schools. Today, NYRR Youth and Community Services reaches well over 100,000 kids in New York City, across the United States, and around the world. Also in late 1998, NYRR hired Mary Wittenberg, an attorney, as its first vice president and chief operating officer to oversee business, administration, and operations.
NYRR helped heal a shattered city and country when the 2001 New York City Marathon was held less than two months after the September 11 attacks. In 2003, NYRR signed a multi-year deal with financial services company ING as the title sponsor of the marathon. Membership topped 40,000 in 2005, the same year that Wittenberg succeeded Steinfeld as president and CEO. NYRR staged the U.S. Cross Country Championships in 2006, inaugurated the NYC Half through the streets of Manhattan the same year, hosted the 2008 U.S. Olympic Men's Marathon Trials in November 2007, and continued to stage the world's largest marathon.
The organization's commitment to youth running continued with the founding of the Running Start instructional video series in 2010 and the expansion of youth programs into all 50 states. The year 2011 saw the creation of the Official NYRR ING New York City Marathon Training Program and a rebranding initiative as a community running organization that builds on its heritage while looking toward the future. Central to this initiative are a new motto, "Run for Life," and a manifesto that details the many benefits of running and reasons to run. In 2012, after New York City and its environs were hit hard by Hurricane Sandy and were struggling with grief over lost lives and homes, the difficult decision was made by the City and NYRR to cancel the 2012 ING New York City Marathon. Thousands of entrants responded in solidarity with the city and one another, running en masse in Central Park and helping with recovery efforts throughout the area. For 2013, October 13 was designated Staten Island Day, dedicated to making a positive impact on the borough’s communities and providing support for ongoing Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts.