As New Yorkers and runners from around the world look forward to the 43rd running of the ING New York City Marathon, the race’s history was recognized on Wednesday morning during the presentation of the Abebe Bikila Award, given to the Rudin family for their outstanding commitment and contributions to the sport of distance running.
In 1976, Lewis and Jack Rudin honored their late father, Samuel Rudin—an avid long-distance runner and a member of the Pastime Athletic Club in the Bronx—by becoming a sponsor of the New York City Marathon. For 36 years, the Rudin family has presented the race’s winners with the Samuel Rudin Trophy.
“We really needed something to generate excitement in this city. [We were] committed to fund that race,” Bill Rudin said, fighting back tears as he accepted the award. “This city is like the marathon. You train, you work hard, and then somewhere along the line you run; you think everything is going great and you hit that wall … and you don’t stop. You keep going, and that’s what this is about.”
The Abebe Bikila Award, named for the legendary 1960 and 1964 Olympic marathon champion from Ethiopia, has been presented annually by New York Road Runners since 1978 to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the sport of distance running, both on and off the field.
After the presentation, the annual painting of the blue line got under way. This year, a special yellow line, to honor victims and all of those affected by the bombings at the Boston Marathon this spring, will—from Columbus Circle to the finish line—join the blue line that leads runners along the 26.2 miles of the course. Thomas Grilk, the executive director of the Boston Athletic Association, joined Mary Wittenberg, the president and CEO of NYRR, with paint roller in hand. “They [runners] will be greeted by a line of inspiration,” Wittenberg said. “That line will be a line to the future and a line that represents our unity with Boston.”
Grilk spoke about the support the city of Boston has received since the bombings. “When we talk about ‘Boston Strong,’ what does it mean? Pretty simple, it just means that we, that you, that everybody—don’t quit, don’t give in, and that we, all of us, live our lives the way we choose to live, regardless of what somebody does to try to stop us,” Grilk said. “That won’t happen. That kind of strength will be on display again on Sunday, once again. It’s ‘New York Strong’ and we look forward to being here and seeing it and being part of it.”
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg