Connecting the Past to the Present at the NYRR Ted Corbitt 15K

With the NYRR Ted Corbitt 15K on Saturday and the NYRR Pete McArdle Cross Country (15K) at Van Cortlandt Park on Sunday, it might seem like a long weekend of racing for some runners, but for Ted Corbitt, it might have only been his warm-up.

Born on January 31, 1919, Corbitt was a founding member of New York Road Runners, and served as the organization's first president from 1958 to 1960. He routinely covered more than 200 miles per week—his highest-ever week of mileage was 312.5—completed 223 marathons and ultramarathons in his lifetime, and continued racing long distances well into his 60s, 70s, and 80s.

He advanced the sport of running through efforts like setting standards for course measurement and promoting ultra-distance running; in fact, he is credited with coining the term "ultramarathon." In 1952, he became the first African-American to represent the United States in the Olympic Games Marathon.

This year's NYRR Ted Corbitt 15K commemorated what would have been Corbitt's 100th birthday. During race week, NYRR continued his legacy of serving the running community by holding a coat drive at the NYRR RUNCENTER, as well as a RUNTalk panel on Thursday about the early days of NYRR, hosted by Corbitt's son, Gary. Joining Corbitt on stage were fellow children of some of NYRR's founding members: Bonnie Ross, the daughter of Browning Ross; Ed Burns, the son of Joseph Burns, and Maeve Vinci, the daughter of Pete McArdle.

A panel discussion at the NYRR RUNCENTER, with Bonnie Ross, Ed Burns, Maeve Vinci, and Gary Corbitt The panel for "Celebrating First-Generation NYRR History and Ted Corbitt Birth Centenary" (L-R): Bonnie Ross, Ed Burns, Maeve Vinci, and Gary Corbitt

The group shared stories of discovering what their parents collected throughout their running careers, and the groundwork they set for the future of distance running.

Burns uncovered his father's correspondences, with many letters between his father and Ted Corbitt, that traced the progress of the club as it grew from its initial 29 members in 1958. (By 2019, NYRR's membership has grown to approximately 70,000 members.)

Vinci recounted a story of finding a duffel bag filled with her father's medals from races; given that McArdle won, among other races, the 1963 Pan-American Games Marathon, and represented the U.S. in the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Marathon, one can assume it was a sizable collection!

Ross recalled her father's routine of coming home from his teaching job and compiling race results for the Long Distance Log, a newsletter of race results and articles sent out monthly from 1956 to 1975. Compare that to today, when runners can track their progress on their phones through NYRR's live results system, and have official results available within hours!

A collage of framed running photosPhotos from the early days of NYRR, with copies of the Long Distance Log above

Then on Saturday, more than 4,600 runners took on 9.3 miles in Central Park in Corbitt's honor. The race also served as the final NYRR Club Points race of 2019; Corbitt himself represented the New York Pioneer Club while he led NYRR through its first years. In this year's race, the West Side Runners took the top team spot in the men's race, while the Dashing Whippets Running Team won in the women's division. Teshome Mekonen took first place overall, breaking the tape in 44:52, with Nuhamin Bogale Ashame winning the women's race in 51:56.

The team victory solidified the West Side Runners' standing at the top of the Open A Men's division, whereas the Whippets' win moved them into a tie for second in the Open A Women's division with Central Park Track Club–New Balance. Find out where your team landed in this year's club competition on our Club Points Standings page.

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Ted Doyle

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