Ted Corbitt

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Though little known to the general public, Ted Corbitt (January 31, 1919 – December 12, 2007)"Heroes of Running", interview by Gail Kislevitz in Runner's World, December 2007, p. 70. Corbitt confirmed 1919 to the interviewer as his year of birth.Corbitt: The Story of Ted Corbitt, Long Distance Runner. John Chodes, Tafnews Press, 1974. The year of birth given in this book, 1920, and related age data, are erroneous per the preceding source, the athlete himself.Distance running inspiration Ted Corbitt passes away at 88 was a key figure in the history of running. In a long career, he held many records as an athlete and was equally influential as an official of running organizations. Corbitt is often called "the father of long distance running." He was an ultramarathon pioneer, helping to revive interest in the sport in the United States in the 1960s and 70s. New York Times columnist Robert Lipsyte called Corbitt "the last surviving spiritual elder of the modern running clan". In a Runner's World feature naming him "lifetime achievement honoree", writer Gail Kislevitz called Corbitt "[a] living symbol of durability and longevity".

Corbitt also developed standards to accurately measure courses and certify races. The technique involved the use of a calibrated bicycle and was widely adopted worldwide.

Personal and professional life

The grandson of slaves, Ted Corbitt was born on a cotton farm near Dunbarton, South Carolina. He ran track in high school and at the University of Cincinnati. Due to the racial discrimination common at the time, he was sometimes banned from track meets when white athletes refused to compete against him. After army service in World War II, Corbitt earned a graduate degree in physical therapy from New York University, where he later lectured. He was a physiotherapist for more than 40 years."Ted Corbitt, a Pioneer in American Distance Running, Dies at 88" (New York Times obituary by Frank Litsky)

Racing and training

Corbitt competed in the Marathon at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki. In 1954 he won the Philadelphia Marathon, in January, the first of his four wins there. In May he won the Yonkers Marathon, becoming the U.S. National Marathon Champion. At various times, Corbitt held the U.S. Athletics (track and field)|track]] records for distances of 25 miles, the Marathon, 40 miles, 50 miles and 100 miles. He remained a nationally competitive runner well into his fifties.

Ted Corbitt is also credited as the first African American to win a marathon.

For many years, Corbitt ran more than 20 miles a day from his home in a distant suburb of New York City to his job as a physiotherapist in Manhattan. On some days, he also ran home. At his peak, Corbitt ran up to 200 miles a week, far more than almost any other distance runner. Corbitt ran most of his miles at a fast pace. One workout he often ran involved 17 miles on the track, followed by 13 miles on roads. One week in 1962, Corbitt ran 300 miles. He then travelled to England and competed in the 54 mile London to Brighton events, finishing fourth. Corbitt's "killer weeks" continue to inspire some elite distance runners to this day.

Other contributions to running

Corbitt served as an unpaid official of many running organizations, including the Amateur Athletic Union. He was the founder and first President of the Road Runners Club of America and the third President of the New York Road Runners Club. Corbitt served on various boards and committees for over 50 years. He helped create the masters division for runners over 40.

In the early 1960s, Corbitt led efforts to accurately measure and certify long distance road race courses in the United States. The technique, based on the work of John Jewell of Great Britain,"John Jewell - the developer of modern course measurement in England" used a calibrated bicycle wheel in conjunction with a revolution counter. This method, the Jones Counter, is still used today.

As an official, Corbitt was often the anonymous "inside man" who remained out of the limelight and left promotion and public relations to others. Corbitt never coached, wrote a book or became a fitness guru. In a career that spanned decades, he earned almost no money from running. Corbitt is revered by a small group of knowledgeable runners, but remains unknown to almost everyone else.

A measure of public recognition finally came in 1998, when Corbitt was among the first five runners to be inducted into the National Distance Running Hall of Fame. Corbitt was also inducted into the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame on its inauguration in April of 2006.

Ted ran his first multiday in the Sri Chinmoy 6 Day Race in 2000 on Wards Island, New York covering 150 miles at the age of 81. The following year, 2001, Ted set a new 80-84 age group record when he completed 303 miles in the Sri Chinmoy 6 Day Race and afterwards was honoured by Sri Chinmoy in a special ceremony.

In 2003, at 84, Corbitt completed a 24-hour race in Astoria, New York by walking 68 miles, finishing 17th in a field of 35. At 87, he was still volunteering at ultramarathon races in New York and sometimes even competing. He continued to treat physiotherapy patients. At the time of his death, Corbitt had embarked on a project to walk all the streets of Manhattan.

Corbitt never smoked and his only drink was a single can of beer while in the army. He practiced self-massage, carefully chewed every mouthful of food, and drank lots of water. He died in Houston, Texas.

See Also


References and external links