New York City Marathon: NY really enjoys running

When  Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux have proposed the Greensward Plan – the project of  improving and expanding the park in the center of Manhattan-, they probably didn’t realize that the result, Central Park as we know it, would become a landmark for generations of running New Yorkers.

Central Park was completed in 1873, when women still had to wear voluminous skirts and corsets, while men’s dress code included silk hats and walking sticks and the only ones running were kids and athletes. Even if the idea of a “sneaker” was proposed by the  American inventor Charles Goodyear in 1839, the first shoe specifically produced for a game arrived in 1907 when Spalding company produced basketball shoes.

However sports shoes were used just for it: sport. You could see people wearing them in a gym, on a football field, but it was only during the 1950s that people started to have some free time and need a more relaxed dress code.

Sneaker sales in the United States soared to six hundred million pairs a year in 1957. People were all wearing sneakers, movie stars, rock stars, children, old people: the shoes originally developed for sports became the mainstay for most people. The following step, of course, was jogging! Promoted by Arthur Lydiard, a New Zealand coach, jogging was popularized in the United States by coach Bill Bowerman, publishing the book Jogging in 1966, after jogging with Lydiard in New Zealand in 1962.

All these historical facts took to a lot of events and the organization of the New York Road Runners Club.

Founded in 1958 as a running club with about 40 members who, led by African American Olympian Ted Corbitt, New York Road Runners Club organized a first competition on October 5th, 1958. Of 40 members, fourteen participated and 10 finished. Pete McArdle of the New York Athletic Club won the nine-mile cross-country race staged at Van Cortland Park, Bronx.

In 1968, another important event happened: Major Lindsay initiated a jogging program in Central Park. Even if Lindsay himself couldn’t know, this simple fact was the base for something very bigger. In 1970, in fact, the New York Road Runners Club organized the first New York City Marathon and Lebow, the president, invested $300 dollars of his own money to fund the entire event. The marathon was staged entirely within in Central Park, starting and finishing at Tavern-On-The-Green, West 67th Street and West Drive, with a big hill from East 72bd Street up to 84th, and another hill on the north-west side of the park.

Even if it was named New York City Marathon, the event was staged in Central Park, Manhattan. But over the years, the marathon grew larger and larger, so on 1976 the 26-mile-385-yard really became a New York event. Starting at the toll plaza of the Verrazzano-Naroows Bridge in Staten Island, then Brooklyn through the Brooklyn Bridge, Queens and over the the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan and in the end The Bronx competitors run through all the five boroughs. After 43 years the course is almost the same, with the finish line moved to Central Park.

NYCM 2013_ map

The official New York Road Runners Map shows the course indicating the nearest subway stations. Of course, some people could decide to give up and will need a way to get back home. But in the case of the winner Rosie Ruiz subways played a different role. 

Rosie Ruiz is a Cuban American who was declared the winner in the female category for the 84th Boston Marathon in 1980 only to have her title stripped after it was discovered that she had not run the entire course. When she too part to the New York City Marathon in 1979, two Harvard students, John Faulkner and Sarah Mahoney, recalled seeing Ruiz burst out of a crowd of spectators on Commonwealth Avenue, half a mile from the finish. Not long after that, freelance photographer Susan Morrow reported meeting her on the subway during the New York Marathon and accompanying her from the subway to the race. New York Marathon officials launched an investigation and could not find any sign of Ruiz near the finish line. Based on this and other evidence, New York Marathon director Fred Lebow disqualified Ruiz from the 1979 race, saying she could not possibly have run the entire course. Later that week, the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) disqualified Ruiz.

It’s still not clear if the woman was really injured or just tried to cheat, but it was 1979, nowadays cheating would be quite impossible.

A nicer aspect of the marathon is the presence of a lot of children (125.000 kids on 2013), aspect as relevant as shown with the following video: this is an Italian TV commercial by “Pampers” on air during the current October, just in time for November 3rd, the day of the next New York City Marathon! (click on the image below to watch the video)


Because of financial and organizational reasons, the more the Marathon grows, the more they make it hard to participate. On the official website there are all the information you need about How to Qualify for Guaranteed Entry to the 2014 New York City Marathon. The application will be available after November 3, (when the Marathon 2013 will take place), on a date to be announced — stay tuned!