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Ted Corbitt Originally Conceived The New York City Five Borough Marathon

A panel discussion on Saturday, November 6 focuses on the hidden history of the world’s largest marathon.

There still seems to be some confusion on who came up with the idea of running the New York Marathon through the Five Boroughs of New York City.  Scanning the literature on this subject, some get it partially correct but most incorrectly credit George Spitz with originating the idea.  George Spitz’s role was pivotal and led to the race traversing each borough.  Mr. Spitz had a relationship with the Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton.  He took Ted Corbitt’s idea to Percy Sutton who gave the green light for the race to happen.

The Ted Corbitt Archives and soon to be started Ted Corbitt Institute for Running History Research is interested in recruiting running history scholars to research topics and do storytelling in a manner that correctly records running history.  Using original source material to verify facts is the only proper way to record history.  The Ted Corbitt Letter Collection provides the evidence about the origination of the five borough concept.

Ted Corbitt Letter to George Spitz – May 22, 1976 – Here’s an exert:

“I’ve just quickly read Paul Milvy’s write up of the background of the upcoming Five Boro Marathon.  He concluded that there is some confusion as to the origin of the race.  It is clear to me that you brought up the idea of staging a race in NY City and that you wanted it to be special worthy of the “big apple,” and that you sought possible financial and other assistance, with the hope of inviting some top foreign and out of town runners.  In response to your question, I mentioned that a race could be set up and that the most unusual race you could set up would be a sweep thru all five boros, providing the distance wasn’t too long.  You brought up the subject again (all by phone) and stated that Sutton was definitely interested and enthusiastic about the idea.  I then contacted Harry Murphy about the possibility of a route.  I have Murphy’s reply and subsequent correspondence.  You see you deal by phone, and I write.  To each his own.”

The histories of the New York Road Runners (established in 1958) and the culture of the New York City Marathons originated with the New York Pioneer Club. A racially integrated club which was founded in Harlem in 1936 by three Black gentlemen. 

A panel discussion on Saturday, November 6th from 1:00 to 2:15 EDT will continue a process of setting the historic record straight about this hidden history of the world’s largest marathon.

Panel Topic: Harlem Set The Blueprint

Alison Mariella Désir, moderator
Meb Keflezighi, panelist
Gary Corbitt, panelist
Pamela Cooper Chenkin, panelist
The panel will be livestream at Facebook:

To learn more about long distance running and track & field history visit: