Tag: New York Road Runners

CELEBRATING GLOBAL RUNNING DAY ON FRED LEBOW’S BIRTHDAY

This Wednesday, June 5th is Global Running Day, and there will be celebrations and recognitions throughout the world. But perhaps Global Running Day should be recognized two days earlier on June 3rd instead. Why? Because June 3 is Fred Lebow’s birthday. 

While Frank Shorter is recognized as the Alan Shepard of the Running Boom with his victory in the Munich Olympic Marathon in 1972 igniting the sport’s growth in America, Fred Lebow was the man, perhaps as much as any other, who launched the sport of road running across the world from his offices at 9 E. 89th Street, headquarters of New York Road Runners Club just off 5th Avenue and Central Park.

In 2019, Fred would have been celebrating his 87th birthday. Sadly, he died of cancer in October 1994 at the age of 62.

Running Ringmaster Fred Lebow

Fred was not a great runner himself, finishing the inaugural New York City Marathon in 1970 in 4:12:09, placing 45th out of 55 finishers.  But he was a great running impresario at a time when the sport required intrepid pioneers willing to make something out of essentially nothing.

Back in the early days when running was making inroads into more and more people’s lives, it was Fred, bullhorn in hand and true belief in his heart, who became the sport’s primary front man and tub-thumper, the man who engineered the first five-borough New York City Marathon in 1976, taking what had been a quirky event making four-laps of Central Park and turning it into an international phenomenon.

Always looking to expand the sport, both domestically and internationally, Fred was a willing interviewee as well as a self-confessed “borrower” of ideas he discovered during his far-flung travels to see how others were staging races elsewhere.

On July 21, 1980, I sat down with Fred in his office for one of our many interviews for my Runner’s Digest radio show in Boston.  In this interview, we discussed the future of running as a professional sport. It’s fascinating to go back nearly 40 years and see where Fred saw the sport’s future heading.  I can only wonder what he would have thought of today’s running world. (more…)

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NO LONGER SIMPLY A MAN’S WORLD

“This is a man’s world,” James Brown sang as sweat poured down his face and his voice cut with a plaintive soul that only he and maybe Otis Redding seemed capable of producing. But the Godfather of Soul wasn’t through, concluding, “but it would be nothing, nothing, notthhiiinnnng without a woman or a girl!”

This is the way that it once was. Less we forget.

I was watching an old Groucho Marx “You Bet Your Life” TV show on YouTube recently while churning away on the elliptical cross trainer. The episode was from 1954 and was sponsored by “De Soto-Plymouth from your Chrysler dealer”.

The half-hour game show featured a series of three couples who spun a wheel and won some money, but the real entertainment was watching Groucho interact with the couples who were little more than foils for his legendary ad libs.

But in each separate case when it came time to actually play the game, it was the man who took complete control, whether in determining the value of the question, or in giving the answer, rarely even conferring with his female partner, even when you could tell he didn’t know the answer and she did.

On each occasion the woman stood meekly by as Groucho asked the questions with the same patronizing tone that the man then answered. That’s just how the world was, and still is in many places. The strong will take and assume their right to do so.

This was the attitude that formed the world-view of generation after generation of women, know your place, it’s a man’s world.

Alice Schneider, RIP
Alice Schneider, RIP

But for quiet but dignified women like Michigan native Alice Schneider, a pioneering contributor to the New York Road Runners who passed away September 24th, that attitude was never a comfortable fit, nor one to be blindly perpetuated.  The country was changing as Alice was coming of age. And so was the sport of running. (more…)

THE OLYMPICS: SUPER BOWL OR PRO BOWL?

Steph Curry skips Olympics
NBA MVP Curry opts out of Olympic tourney

It’s not like USA Basketball will miss a beat without him, but when two-time NBA MVP Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors announced that he was going to skip the Rio Olympics to rest a sore knee, it just reinforced the belief that for many professional athletes the Olympics are more like the Pro Bowl than the Super Bowl, a nice consolation for the guys who don’t make it to the Big Dance.  The only athletes who rely on the Olympics are the ones in track & field, swimming, gymnastics, boxing, wrestling, etc.  And for track athletes, at least, the irony is that they have to cover up what little sponsorship they do have when the world is finally watching.

It is kind of crazy, right?  So how’s this for a counter-intuitive “do the opposite” consideration?

Because the Olympics only comes around once every four years, and then so completely dwarf the non-Olympic year competitions in running, rather than help build up the sport, the Games actually restrict interest to their very small window.  Thus, as long as the Olympics remain at the top of running’s mountain, the sport will never experience new growth, leaving athletes with no voice, much less a financial interest in the biggest competition that defines their careers.

(more…)

NYRR BENDING TO THE FORCE OF HURRICANE SANDY

Hurricane Sandy Roars Ashore

Hurricane Sandy is pummeling the eastern seaboard of the United States with a storm whose scope has little to no precedence in modern times.  A population base of over 50 million is and will be directly effected, including the modest thousands who have signed on to this coming weekend’s ING New York City Marathon.

Whether this storm is yet another in a long line of evidentiary notices indicating a shift in global weather patterns is of little concern amidst the lashing currently at hand.

What we do know for sure is that the New York Road Runners, organizers of the NYC Marathon, have begun to reconfigure their schedule for this marathon week in light of Sandy’s dire presence. At present, however, the marathon, itself, seems safe.  This message was just received:

We want to alert you of changes to the ING New York City Marathon Race Week Media Events Schedule due to the weather. Below are a few important changes, but please stay tuned as changes are very fluid. We thank you for your understanding, and look forward to seeing you this week! 

(Well, I won’t actually be there this year, having been replaced on the new ESPN broadcast.  Notwithstanding…)

·         Tomorrow, Tuesday, October 30, our media session and credential distribution is cancelled.

·         Media credential distribution will resume on Wednesday, October 31  at the accreditation trailer (Central Park West at 69th Street). **Location subject to change

·         Wednesday’s media session will be held at the (New York) Hilton. This space will also be a functioning workroom for media. (1335 Avenue of the Americas/West 53rd-West 54th Streets, Concourse C down one level from the lobby)

·         We are hoping to return to the ING New York City Marathon Media Center at West Drive and 67th Street inside Central Park beginning on Thursday, November 1.

***

The marathon, even in the best of conditions, is a test of our human capacity to persevere and overcome.  The very same is true for those organizations tasked with staging the events.  That those who sign up to run these civic extravaganzas are ushered to and through the many miles not originally designed to be covered on foot en masse is a glowing testament to the men and women whose charge it is to create the illusion of normalcy in the face of overwhelming technical challenges.

Add in a freak nor’eater storm like the one experienced in Boston the weekend of the marathon in 2007, or the heat wave in Boston this year or experienced by Chicago in 2007, and the strain on organizers and city services becomes all but inconceivable.

Last year New York had a close call with a Halloween nor’easter that wreaked havoc in Central Park the Monday before the race.  But under the current circumstances, that storm seems little more than a Halloween trick or treat compared to the full-on fright show Sandy is staging.

More as the story develops…

Peter Gambaccini supplies this update via Runner’s World

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PERILS OF THE PRESS TRUCK

     In order to get involved in the sport of road racing you have to get past certain things, like parental admonishments about not playing in the streets, or not standing up in the back of moving vehicles.  While those seem like fine cautions, playing in the streets is essentially the definition of road racing, while standing up in the back of a moving vehicle is how one reports on it.  Besides, most of what parents admonished us not to do is exactly what they ended up doing for fun once we were sent off to bed or shipped off to camp.

This is not to suggest that the entirety of Mom and Pop’s dictates were off base.  As a rule one should not play in the streets nor stand in the back of vehicles unless there are a lot of people in short pants pinning on race numbers in the vicinity  – or you see bulls trampling through the streets of Pamplona, Spain.  Even then, I have a sense that if running weren’t the politically connected sport that it is, it would be laughed out of every parade permit hearing in the land.  In fact, if the authorities took even a passing look at the situation, or more specifically the insurance industry understood what was going on, there wouldn’t be press trucks. (more…)

CROWDING THE NUMBERS

     Thus have Prince William & Catherine been joined in Holy Matrimony in London’s Westminster Abbey with the eyes of England and the world upon them.  And as with each of these generational royal weddings – 1947 Elizabeth and Philip, 1981 Charles and Diana – the good and worthy media has informed us that the throngs lining the processional route from the Abbey to Buckingham Palace swelled to, verily, one million strong to witness the drenched opulence of it all.

Indeed, such bold estimates echo those made during our very own major marathons as they stretch and wind through the 26.2 miles of our lordly cities.  But how faithful are such estimates, truly?  Let’s do the math.  (more…)