Sunday, June 21, 2009

Marathon Sunday: NYC Marathon

The Big Day is always the first Sunday in November, so every Sunday at Run Run DMC is Marathon Sunday! The NYC marathon, Boston, San Diego, Ultras...all here. Today is a little more about the NYC Marathon history.

The NYC marathon wasn't always the huge to-do it is today. Marathoning itself has only become popular in the last 30 or so years. When Fred Lebow organized the first NYC marathon in 1970, the sport was seen as a fringe activity for a small group of weirdos and loners; most of whom had to improvise their own training programs, as long distance coaching was not widely available. The first NYC marathon in 1970 was run by 127 runners who paid a $1 entry fee to circle Central Park a little over 4 times. 55 runners finished. Six years later, 2,090 runners ran the first 5 borough NYC marathon, and the response within the city was so positive, it became a community event that drew thousands of spectators.

The marathon was originally considered to be an event for men only. Women were told their bodies were too weak to handle the distance, and the stress would affect their ability to bear children. Women of the 60's and 70's knew that this was frankly bullshit, and began to run the Boston and NYC marathons clandestinely. They'd sneak in without numbers and would often run shielded by male runners who recognized their mad distance running skills. Sometimes they finished, sometimes they were forcibly pulled out, but they consistently ran solid times, and in 1971, convinced marathon officials to make the NYC marathon the first to officially allow women to run.

In 1994, Germán Silva of Mexico pulled off an amazing victory after taking a wrong turn in Central Park in the final mile. Germán ran a 5:15 mile to recover his lead and beat his teammate Benjamen Paredes by two seconds.

The ING marathon site has again created a great clip with a regrettable Victory at Sea style soundtrack. Watch the video anyway, its a goodie.

In the late 90's, Kenyan runners began to dominate the sport. Second to the US in number of NYC Marathon winners (total of 14 to the US total of 20), they have had the most consistent 1st place finishes of the last 20 years, but so far only the Kenyan women have been able to set any course records. Watch the closest finish in NYC marathon history between Kenyan Paul Tergat and South African Hendrick Ramaala! (As an added bonus, we have been spared the Saving Private Ryan soundtrack)

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the NYC Marathon. A record number of 40,000 runners were accepted and a week of festivities have been planned around the race. A great reason to travel to see the event and cheer me on!