Rain Doesnt Dampen Spirits of Fred Lebow Half-Marathoners

Congratulations. You just ran a half-marathon. In January. In New York City. And in terrible weather conditions. For that accomplishment, you deserve something special...like a medal! But have you ever thought about what goes into a medal? How it goes from the conception phase to hanging around your neck at the end of a race?

Hopefully you’ve changed into some warm, dry clothes following this morning’s race in the rain. And if possible, we recommend you grab a cup of something warm, settle in, and learn more about how the 2019 Fred Lebow Half-Marathon medal came to be.

Please scroll down the article for medal engraving information

The brainchild of NYRR’s Creative Services team, which falls within the organization’s Brand Marketing and Communications division, the medal’s design was extremely popular among runners this year.

The design was led by Rachel Isaac, assistant manager, creative services, who explained that “the first part of the process was leveraging the race’s history to come up with a fresh, innovative design.”

“The Fred Lebow Half-Marathon is one of our races where we try to celebrate the history of the people who have had a lasting impact on NYRR and their contributions to the running community,” she said.

For those who are unaware, Lebow co-founded the New York City Marathon in 1970. He became president of NYRR in 1972 and served in that role and as race director of the New York City Marathon for 22 years, until his untimely death from brain cancer in 1994.

Oh—and while running through Central Park, you may have seen his statue, which is located at Engineers’ Gate on the east side of the park.

Back in 2016, NYRR introduced a medal for the race—an added treat for those running 13.1 miles in tough January conditions. After settling on using Fred’s iconic image as the design for the piece of bling, a snowstorm led to the cancellation of the race and runners never got to earn their “Fred head” medal.

As a result, the medal design was replicated in 2017. It was then tweaked somewhat in 2018.

“Fred’s iconic look is one our runners easily identify with,” added Isaac. “We started off with a cutout of Fred’s head with his mustache and hat and we’ve kept that design for a few years because it was very popular and different from our other medals.”

For this year’s race, the team experimented with different styles, including different shapes and cutouts, before landing on the stopwatch design. Why a stopwatch, you ask?

Well, as race director of the New York City Marathon, Lebow kept more than a watchful eye on time (see his statue at Engineers’ Gate).

Functional Medal

But it’s one thing to have an amazing idea and design. The hard part is making it functional.

“Sometimes the ribbon needs to be wider to hold it,” Isaac explained. “When part of the medal sticks out, such as the stopwatch elements on this medal, you need good support from manufacturer as we don’t want the medal to break.”

Another obstacle in medal design is that they need to have an area on the back for engraving purposes. That piece of real estate also needs to accommodate long names.

“When we got the prototype, that’s when we got excited about it,” Isaac said, “as it was both functional and the design worked.”


“The shape and weight of the analog stopwatch felt great in our hands, and hung around our necks like a stopwatch lanyard,” added Mary Beth Kilkelly, NYRR’s director, creative and marketing services. “NYRR’s design process is focused on the runners’ experience, and in this case we were excited to deliver a visceral touchpoint to the race.”

A Hit with Runners

The result was a hit—with the medal preview garnering more than 16,000 views on Instagram in the weeks leading up to the race. And for the 3,725 finishers at the Fred Lebow Half-Marathon, the response was overwhelmingly positive. 

“One of our aims is how do we educate and inspire (and maybe even surprise) our runners through design?” Isaac said. “We wanted to keep things fresh, especially you’ve ran this race for the past number of years, and I think we’ve done that.” 

Not my first race of 2019, but it is my first #MedalMonday of the year. @NYRR #FredLebowHalf was my 2nd 9+1 race. This race consisted of 2 1/2-ish loops around @CentralParkNYC. It was raining when we arrived (and during the whole race) and super cold, but once the race started I felt mostly good. Central Park can be challenging (elevation profile pictured), but I was able to push it a little, and was happy with my 2:02:41. No race pics of us because it was just too darn cold to bother. But we got a pretty cool medal and a seriously good quality hat - it’s lined and super warm! I wore it all morning/afternoon in NYC and it really helped on this frigid day, with my hair wet from the rainy run! Both the medal and hat feature Fred Lebow’s face. The medal looks like a stop watch! . Also pictured: my Bowery breakfast sandwich from @orchardgrocer and donut from @erinmckennasbakery. . . . . #runner #veganrunner #triathlete #vegantriathlete #athlete #veganathlete #nomeatathlete #teamhumaneleague #fortheanimals #plantstrong #plantpower #marathontraining #beyoubeactive #pjuractive #pjuractive2nskinj #humabeing #9plus1 #vegannyc #whatveganseat

A post shared by Michele Siconolfi 🌱 (@michonplants) on

#medalmondayπŸ…Fred Lebow Manhattan Half Marathon βœ… First race of the year and a wonderful training run for the Rock n Roll Nashville Marathon. We’re off to a good start! We earned this medal. Honestly, the impending bad weather and threats of Winter Storm Harper had us questioning the weekends events. We were going to cancel at one point & not even drive up to NYC. We also didn’t feel so great prior to race day. We knew it was going to be tough, but we were up for the challenge and ready to make new memories. And we did. We got it done. Rain and all, we ran through Central Park, which I’m pretty sure has ZERO flat sections β›° and had a blast. Nothing could stop us {well maybe ice πŸ˜‚} I’m pretty proud of us. Also, knowing how amazing this medal 😍 was (it’s one of the best I’ve seen) gave us extra motivation. Plus this hat is officially my new fav. πŸ’™πŸ’› My review of the Fred Lebow Manhattan Half Marathon: πŸ‘πŸΌπŸ‘πŸΌ. @nyrr knows how to host a race. It was well organized from start to finish. Running through Central Park was delightful, hills & all. I highly recommend this half marathon. It’s a great training race for a spring marathon. Definitely consider this one if you’re in NYC in January. Thank you again @nyrr and volunteers for a wonderful race! πŸ”œ NEXT UP: Disney Princess Half Marathon {βž•5 & 10k} in February πŸ₯³. Can’t wait!! #halfmarathon #fredlebowhalf #nyrr #marathontraining #rnrnashville #marathoner #disneyprincesshalfmarathon #bling #instarunners

A post shared by Jill πŸ‘±πŸ»‍β™€οΈπŸ’— (@travel.run.repeat) on

The next race where runners can earn a medal is the United Airlines NYC Half. And our next available race that you can sign up for is the NYRR Al Gordon Brooklyn 4M.


NYRR Members and myNB Rewards Gold Members: Join us at the NYRR RUNCENTER featuring the NB Run Hub after the 2019 NYRR Fred Lebow Half-Marathon for complimentary finisher medal engraving!* While you wait, the RUNCENTER staff will be offering a hot chocolate recovery station from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. (or until the hot chocolate runs out!)

Medal engraving will be available at the following dates and times:

  • Sunday, January 20: 10:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m.

  • Monday, January 21: 12:00 p.m.–7:00 p.m.

*Please note that we are only able to offer engraving for participants in the 2019 NYRR Fred Lebow Half-Marathon.

Please have your NYRR member number (available on your NYRR member card or in My NYRR) or download the NB App and show your Gold status at time of engraving. Can’t make it? Send a proxy to have your medal engraved; they’ll just need your NYRR member number.

Finishers who are not NYRR members can purchase an NYRR membership through their My NYRR account, and will be able to have their medal engraved after becoming an NYRR member. Visit our NYRR membership page for more details on NYRR membership levels and prices.

Alternatively, runners can learn how to become a myNB Rewards Gold Member to receive free medal engraving.




Authored By:

Gary McLaughlin

Just Added to Your Cart

2017 United Airlines NYC Half

Go To My Cart

Time Out

Your session has timed out due to inactivity.