44 years of New York

This weekend will mark the 44th running of the New York City Marathon. This article is dedicated to highlighting some of the best points of one of the races that truly brings our sport into the limelight.

NYC Marathon photo on RunnersOnTheGo blog

The New York Marathon is the biggest marathon in the world  in terms of population, and arguably prestige. When you talk to runners you especially runners from the United States, you may hear a mix of opinions on which marathon is the best. However, a safe bet could be place on either Boston, or New York as the favorite (rivals in baseball, rivals in the Marathon.) Add to the controversy that the 2014 Boston Marathon victor was an American for the first time in 21 years, and that American is also slated to run New York, fans of distance running will have good reason to tune in on Sunday morning.

Let’s take a look at some interesting tidbits about the New York Marathon.

Qualifying is hard. New York City Marathon qualifying times are an average of 24 minutes faster than Boston qualifying times.

Humble beginnings.  The first New York City Marathon was in 1970. There were only 127 competitors, 55 of which finished the race. The race was originally a series of loops around Park Drive in Central Park.

A photo of Grete Waitz, 9 time New York City Marathon Champion

Catching on. 1976 was the first year that the Marathon covered all five Boroughs. In 1978, women’s running legend Grete Waitz won her first NYC Marathon (she went on to win 9 of them) in 2:31, and the race’s popularity started to skyrocket.

The infamous scam. Many people remember Rosie Ruiz as the famous Boston Marathon scammer who ran an unprecedented 2:31 in sweats, and with a body, that did not look like a typical distance runner. In 1979 Ruiz had debuted as a cheater in New York where she “ran” 2:56:29 to qualify her for the Boston Marathon. Ruiz’ results were later rescinded by both the New York, and Boston Marathon officials.

Almost a World Record. In 1981, famous American distance runner, and now coach, Alberto Salazar ran, a world record, 2:08:13 in the New York Marathon. However, the Athletics Congress later disqualified the mark because the course was found to be 150 meters short. Salazar maintains that his need to run wide on the turns due to a lack of crowd control was worth at least 150 meters.

The Miler’s Speed. The 1983 race did not disappoint the national television audience as Geoff Smith held a 2 and a half-minute lead only to be run down by New Zealand’s Rod Dixon. Dixon was trying his hand (or should we say his legs) at the distance after being an Olympic Bronze Medalist in 1972 in the 1500, that’s right, THE 1500 (not even a mile long, quite a jump to the marathon distance.

For old time’s sake. In 1992, Grete Waitz completed her last New York City Marathon, finishing the race 5:32 with Fred Lebow, who was the original race director.

Wrong Way! In 1994 German Silva took a wrong turn just .7 miles from the finish line, which put him into second place. However, despite the lack of real estate, Silva rallied back to take the win by just 2 seconds over Benjamin Paredes.

Bad Boy For Life. In 2003 famous rapper P. Diddy overcame his very non-running-friendly former name, Puff Daddy, and completed the New York Marathon in 4:14. While his time blows away fellow musician David Lee Roth (6:06,) my vote for most impressive celebrity runner has to go to Billy Baldwin (3:25.)

Paul Tergat winning the 2005 NYC Marathon, photo on RunnersOnTheGo blog

Too close for comfort. The 2005 version of the NYC Marathon saw the closest margin of victory in the history of the race as Paul Tergat of Kenya outkicked Hendrick Ramaala of South Africa to win by only one second.

Love him or hate him. In 2006 Lance Armstrong made his highly publicized marathon debut at the New York City Marathon. With some rather famous pacesetters including, Alberto Salazar, German Silva, 1984 Olympic Champion Joan Benoit Samuelson, and 1500 Meter World Record Holder Hicham el-Guerrouj Lance barely broke the 3-hour barrier running 2:59. He said afterward “I’ve never felt this bad, ever. My legs are killing me. My back doesn’t feel that great, either. I’m really suffering.”

Tragedy overshadows. The 2008 race was tainted by the deaths of three participants. Carlos Jose Gomes died of a heart attack shortly after completing the race, Joseph Marotta died of a heart attack hours after walking the course, and Fred Costa collapsed at the Marathon and died almost 2 weeks later of a heart attack. No Boston 2013, but still very sad.

Meb Keflezighi winning the 2009 New York City Marathon on Runners On The Go Blog

Milestones. In 2009 Meb Keflezighi became the first American to win the New York City Marathon since Alberto Salazar in 1982. Keflezighi clocked a 2:09:15. The 2009 NYC Marathon also marked the first marathon in which there were over 40,000 official finishers (43,660)

What record? In 2010 Geoffry Mutai won the NYC Marathon breaking the 10-year-old course record. That’s not all though, 2nd place finisher, Emmanuel Mutai (2:06:28,) and 3rd place finisher Tsegaye Kebede (2:07:14) also dipped under the course record. The 2010 version of the race also broke its previous world record for most finishers in a marathon with 46,795.

A greater issue. The 2012 NYC Marathon was cancelled due to effects of Hurricane Sandy. Mayor Bloomberg stated that running the marathon would not actually take any resources away from the relief efforts. However, due to some harsh criticism of plans to have the race by people who stated that the resources put into the race should be used for the Hurricane Sandy relief effort, Bloomberg stated that, “it is clear that it has become the source of controversy and division… We would not want a cloud to hang over the race or its participants.”

With all this History of excitement, and being the largest Marathon in the world, there is no doubt, in my mind, that this year’s New York City Marathon will be fantastic.

John Coyle is a recent Graduate of Weber State University where he ran Cross Country and Track. He  now runs professionally. He also manages Teton Running Company in Idaho Falls, ID and is the Marketing Manger for RunnersOnTheGo.com. 

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