Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Fred LeBow. A great man.

Fred Lebow (June 3, 1932 - October 9, 1994) (born: Fischel Lebowitz) was an avid road runner and founder of the New York City Marathon. Born in Transylvania, Romania, he transformed the marathon from a small race with 55 finishers in 1970 to one of the largest marathons in the world with over 36,544 finishers in 2004.

Fred ran in the inaugural NYC marathon in 1970, finishing 45th out of 55 runners with a time of 4:12:09. He ran his last NYC Marathon in 1992, in celebration of his 60th birthday, after being diagnosed with brain cancer in early 1990. His time was 5:32:35.

He was posthumously inducted into the National Distance Running Hall of Fame in 2001. During his career he completed 69 marathons in 30 countries. Along with the NYC Marathon he also organized the Empire State Building Run Up, the Fifth Avenue Mile, and the Crazy Legs Mini Marathon, the first strictly women's race. Lebow was also president of the New York Road Runners Club for twenty years. His memorial service at the finish line of the New York City Marathon, attracted a crowd of 3,000 mourners, which was, at that time, the largest memorial gathering in Central Park since the death of John Lennon

I actually met Fred Lebow and even shook hands with him once. It was back in October of 1984. I was barely 19, and went to a high school auditorium near the club to listen to him (and others) give a speech on marathon readiness. He was a tall and lanky fellow, and always had a infectious smile underneath his thick 'stash and awkward looking nose. Years later I remembered seeing him on the news when they recapped him finishing the New York City Marathon in 1992. He was holding hands with Greta Waitz, an 8-time NYC Marathon winner, and household name in New York. It was very emotional, as we all knew he was running with an inoperable brain tumor. Even in his last few years of life, he selflessly dedicated his time to helping people and his organization the New York Road Runners. I highly doubt there will ever be another 'Fred' in my time.

This Saturday, I will be jogging in his memory.

Here's the course (map pictures below)
Start on the East Drive just North of 99th Street and head North. Turn Left/West onto 102nd Street transverse and continue to the West Drive. Turn Left/South onto West Drive and continue around the southern end of the Park onto the East Drive to the finish on the East Drive at 99th Street.

It is supposed to be near the freezing mark at 8am on Saturday, but I am ready.
In the meantime, today's run at noontime should be interesting. Sixty five degrees!

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