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Jon and Bryan discuss the early days of running in New York City, as well as the pivotal role Ted Corbitt played in so much of what running is today.


We speak with Gary Corbitt, son of running pioneer Ted Corbitt, curator of the Ted Corbitt Archives and official historian for the National Black Marathoner’s Association.

Gary was born into the world of running as his father, Ted Corbitt, was one of the first “ultra marathoners” (a term he actually coined), the first president of the New York Road Runners, and a major figure in defining both the New York City Marathon and road racing as we know it. Gary has dedicated his life to documenting the history of running and in particular the early history of black runners.

We spend a lot of our discussion on topics related to Gary’s father Ted and the influence he had on the sport, but we also talk about the value of preserving history, and the need to tell the stories of the people who lived them.

Gary has a lot of projects in the works, and we were glad he could take the time to join us to share his passion with us.


We talk with historian Gary Corbitt about his father’s remarkable career and the early days of running in New York City.

Ted Corbitt and the Early Days of Running
– How Gary’s childhood mirrored the early days of running in New York City
– The importance of the New York Pioneer Club, founded in Harlem in 1936, in creating an integrated running organization well before the Civil Rights era or Jackie Robinson’s integration in Major League Baseball
– The surprising connections between Ted Corbitt and Jackie Robinson
– The experience of being a black runner in the 1940s and 1950s in New York City, and how we went from suspect to respect with some local police
– His experience running on the University of Cincinnati track team and the challenges of competing in the segregated south
– How he ran his first marathon at age 32, ran in the Olympics at 33, and ran the London to Brighton race—his first ultramarathon—at the age of 43
– How Ted was a master physical therapist and used his knowledge to overcome the many injuries he faced during his career due to over-training, often going over 300 miles per week
– His role in perfecting the wheel-based measurement system still used today to measure courses and ensure accuracy
– The many forgotten people who helped to create and grow the sport, and the many forgotten black distance runners who preceded Ted Corbitt
– How Ted Corbitt was one of the inaugural inductee’s into the US Distance Running Hall of Fame, along with Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, Joan Benoit, and Kathrine Switzer

Thoughts on Running and Preserving History Today
– The efforts the National Black Marathoner’s Association is making to work with major marathons to get more black people running
– The amazing collection of letters Ted Corbitt left behind, and Gary’s plan to publish them all together in a book
– His goal to inspire new historians to help document the history or running as well as the milestones being made today
– His goal to create the Ted Corbitt Institute for Running History Research to support historians and historical research
– And finally, how Go Be More means that when you see a need and you can fill it, you need to do so

If you liked this episode, check out our interviews with NBMA President Tony Reed and coach/promoter Tracy Sundlun.

And, you can now get these show notes sent directly to your email. Sign up here!

Recorded August 21, 2020.


Ted Corbitt: An American Pioneer –

Ted Corbitt – Pioneer – Facebook

New York Road Runners –

Road Runners Club of America –


Gary Corbitt – @corbittg


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