The History of New York City Marathon

New York Road Runners History


  • NYRR is founded as the Road Runners Club – New York Association with about 40 members. The founder of the Road Runners Club of America, H. Browning Ross, encourages the group, which meets at Macombs Dam Park in the Bronx.
  • The club is led by 1952 African American Olympian Ted Corbitt who opens the club to all races, genders, and running speeds.
  • Throughout the 1960s, NYRR remains a tight band of committed runners, with about 250 members.


  • NYRR stages the first New York City Marathon in Central Park, with 127 entrants, 55 finishers, and a $1 entry fee.



  • New York City Marathon co-founder Fred Lebow takes over as president of NYRR and helps lead the “running boom” that is sweeping the country.
  • NYRR stages the Crazylegs Mini Marathon (now the NYRR New York Mini 10K), the first all-women road race.


  • NYRR, inspired by Fred Lebow’s vision, takes the New York City Marathon out of Central Park and into the streets of the city’s five boroughs with a field of 2,090 runners.
  • Over the next five years, NYRR launches the Fifth Avenue Mile, the Empire State Building Run-Up, and the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge.


  • Fred Lebow hires high school science teacher Allan Steinfield to oversee the technical and operations aspects of NYRR events.


  • Fred Lebow and Allan Steinfeld recruit some of the world’s best athletes to headline races. These runners include Bill Rodgers, Frank Shorter, Joan Benoit Samuelson, Alberto Salazar, Lasse Viren, Mary Decker Slaney, and Grete Waitz, who eventually goes on to win the New York City Marathon a record nine times.
  • In 1981, NYRR purchases a townhouse on the Upper East Side to house its “International Running Center.”
  • By the end of the decade, membership soars to nearly 30,000.
  • NYRR races are among the first to offer prize money.


  • Fred Lebow is diagnosed with brain cancer, to the heartbreak of the organization. Lebow inspires cancer patients worldwide by running during his months of chemotherapy.
  • With his cancer in remission, Fred Lebow poignantly completes the 1992 New York City Marathon in 5:32:34, accompanied by Grete Waitz.
  • On October 9, just four weeks before the 25th New York City Marathon, Lebow sadly loses his battle with cancer.
  • Allan Steinfeld takes over as NYRR president and New York City Marathon race director.
  • Mary Wittenberg, an attorney and the winner of the 1987 Marine Corps Marathon, is hired as NYRR’s first director of administration. Wittenberg oversees NYRR’s business, administration, and operations.
  • NYRR launches running programs in several NYC middle schools, commencing a long-term commitment to youth programming.
  • NYRR, in a demonstration of the power of running to help heal a shattered city, stages the New York City Marathon less than two months after the September 11 attacks.


  • NYRR signs a multi-year deal with financial services company ING as the first title sponsor of the New York City Marathon.
  • NYRR continues to grow—membership reaches 40,000—and to extend its influence on a local, national, and international scale.
  • Mary Wittenberg is named Allan Steinfeld’s successor as president and CEO of NYRR and race director of the New York City Marathon. The first woman to hold these positions, she oversees NYRR’s 160 full-time employees.
  • The New York City Marathon joins four other leading marathons—Berlin, Boston, Chicago, and London—to form the World Marathon Majors, a two-year series showcasing the sport’s top athletes and awarding an unprecedented $1 million champions’ prize. (The group expands to six with the addition of the Tokyo Marathon in 2013; Abbott becomes the title sponsor in 2014.)
  • NYRR hosts the USA Cross Country Championships in the Bronx’s Van Cortlandt Park.
  • NYRR inaugurates the New York City Half, which starts in Central Park, continues through Times Square, and finishes in lower Manhattan. The inaugural race has some 10,000 finishers.
  • NYRR hosts the U.S. Olympic Trials Men’s Marathon, the Team USA selection race for the 2008 Beijing Games. Ryan Hall breaks the U.S. Olympic Trials record with his 2:09:03 marathon finish time on a course in Central Park.
  • World record-holder Paula Radcliffe of Great Britain wins her third New York City Marathon in as many tries.
  • The 40th running of the New York City Marathon sets an all-time marathon finisher record at 43,660 runners.
  • Meb Keflezighi of Mammoth Lakes, CA, takes first place in the New York City Marathon and is the first American to win the race in the 27 years since Alberto Salazar won his third title in 1982.
  • NYRR enters the social media realm with an array of Facebook fan pages and Twitter feeds.


  • NYRR and the Department of Parks & Recreation co-sponsor the four-mile Run for Haiti in response to the devastating earthquake there. The event raises more than $430,000 for New York’s Haiti Relief Fund.
  • NYRR launches Running Start, a free collection of online fitness videos developed by NYRR, expert youth coaches, and exercise physiologists to teach youth the fundamentals of running through age-appropriate games, activities, and drills.
  • NYRR introduces the Official NYRR New York City Marathon Training Program, a revolutionary online plan that is personalized based on a runner’s experience, age, sex, race times, and current training.
  • One-on-one e-coaching becomes available from NYRR’s experts. More than 640 runners sign up in the first month of the program.
  • The New York City Marathon has 47,340 finishers, setting a new record.
  • NYRR signs an historic five-year deal with ESPN/ABC7 for a comprehensive year-round national and local television package, the cornerstone of which is the New York City Marathon. (In 2013, the marathon is televised nationally for the first time in almost 20 years.)
  • For the first time in event history, the New York City Marathon is canceled, due to Hurricane Sandy. Thousands of runners gather in Central Park for informal marathons on November 4, and many assist with recovery efforts in hard-hit areas like Staten Island and Coney Island.
  • NYRR makes a donation of $1 million and, together with its partners, a $1.2 million donation of New York City Marathon supplies to the Mayor’s Fund for the Advancement of New York City, to be used for Sandy relief and recovery efforts.
  • NYRR continues to help the city recover from Superstorm Sandy. Contributions include donated goods at our races, donations of race proceeds from the Staten Island Half, and the creation of Staten Island Day, which raises more than $100,000 in donations for Sandy relief efforts.
  • On May 18, the Brooklyn Half hosts some 20,000 runners—about 7,000 more than ever before in the race’s 33-year history. They run from the Brooklyn Museum through Prospect Park to the finish line on Coney Island’s world-famous boardwalk. The race is broadcast on ABC7.
  • NYRR donates $146,000 to The One Fund Boston, formed to assist victims and families affected by the Boston Marathon bombing, through the sale of “I Run for Boston” T-shirts.
  • NYRR partners with one of the world’s top security firms and works closely with the NYPD and state/federal partners to provide enhanced security measures, further strengthening an already comprehensive security plan.
  • NYRR launches the Five-Borough Series, which showcases NYRR’s commitment to the individuals and communities in each borough. The races include the United Airlines NYC Half, the Airbnb Brooklyn Half, the Queens 10K, the New Balance Bronx 10 Mile, and the Staten Island Half. The series is a celebration of what makes each borough unique, inspiring, and an amazing place to get out and get moving.
  • The Brooklyn Half becomes the country’s biggest half-marathon of the year when 25,642 runners cross the Coney Island Boardwalk finish line.
  • In its first year with new title sponsor Tata Consultancy Services, the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon breaks the previous year’s record with 50,530 finishers—the largest of any marathon in history.
  • The 44th New York City Marathon celebrates the event’s one-millionth finisher.
  • Molly Huddle becomes the first American winner in the 10-year history of the United Airlines NYC Half, tying the event record of 1:08:31.
  • The first-ever Times Square Kids’ Run at the United Airlines NYC Half brings more than 700 school-aged runners through the heart of Midtown Manhattan for a 1500-meter race alongside the half-marathon course.
  • After 17 years at NYRR, Mary Wittenberg steps down as NYRR’s president and CEO and TCS New York City Marathon Race Director. COO Michael Capiraso is promoted to NYRR president and CEO, and CPO Peter Ciaccia is promoted to NYRR president, events and TCS New York City Marathon race director.
  • A record-breaking 26,482 runners cross the finish line at the 2015 Airbnb Brooklyn Half, again making the race the largest half-marathon in the country that year.
  • On June 3 at St. Mary’s Park in the Bronx, NYRR launches NYRR Open Run, a community-based initiative aimed at bringing free weekly runs to local neighborhood parks in New York City by working with community leaders and volunteers.
  • Other NYRR Open Runs are added at Astoria Park in Queens, Conference House Park and Silver Lake Park in Staten Island, and Marine Park and Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn. NYRR Open Run operates with NYC Parks’ Community Parks Initiative to bring programming to smaller public parks throughout New York City.
  • Nearly 600 kids run the final 1.8 miles of the TCS New York City Marathon course at the inaugural NYRR Youth Invitational. The event is televised on WABC-TV, Channel 7.
  • More than 1,000 NYC school-aged kids and 100 TCS New York City Marathon pro athletes participate in the TCS Run with Champions by running one mile or 400 meters on the race course during race week.
  •  Mighty Milers expands to more schools, community centers, and after-school programs, creating a network that includes private and parochial schools, as well as after-school sites from all corners of NYC.
  • As of this year, NYRR now serves more than 200,000 students locally and nationally—120,000 of whom come from approximately 600 schools and community centers across the five boroughs—through free NYRR youth running programs, events, and resources.
  • The Young Runners program now serves more than 3,300 students in more than 100 schools throughout the five boroughs.
  • The NYRR Youth Running Series—a three-season program initiated in 2015 with events throughout the school year including cross country, indoor track, and road running—and our Youth Jamborees continue to grow.
How long is the New York City Marathon?
Some 50,740 runners — including the millionth person to start the race in its 43-year history — pounded the pavement though the five boroughs as the beloved ING New York City Marathon returned a year after it was canceled because of Hurricane Sandy.
What is the prize for winning the New York City Marathon?
The two winners each received $100,000 in prize money, with Jeptoo capturing the World Marathon Majors title for $500,000. In the women’s wheelchair division, Tatyana McFadden of the U.S. completed a historic sweep of the Boston, London, Chicago, and New York marathons in the same year, winning in 1:59:13
Where does the New York City Marathon start?
The initial course of 1970 consisted in repeated racing around Central Park. Nowadays the course covers all five boroughs of New York City. It begins on Staten Island, in Fort Wadsworth, near the approach to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.


Fred Lebow (June 3, 1932 – October 9, 1994), born Fischel Lebowitz, was a runner, race director, and founder of the New York City Marathon. Born in Arad, Romania, he presided over the transformation of the race from one with 55 finishers in 1970 to one of the largest marathons in the world with over 43,660 finishers in 2009. He was posthumously inducted into the National Distance Running Hall of Fame in 2001.

Lebow ran in the inaugural marathon in 1970, finishing 45th out of 55 runners with a time of 4:12:09. He ran his last NYC Marathon on November 1, 1992 in celebration of his 60th birthday, after being diagnosed with brain cancer in early 1990, with his friend, nine-time NYC Marathon women’s winner Grete Waitz, with a time of 5:32:35.

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.Image result for Grete Waitz and Fred Lebow

Image result for Grete Waitz and Fred Lebow