Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ted Corbitt "The Grandfather of American Ultrarunning" passes away at the age of 88

Ted Corbitt, who some say is the "Grandfather of American Ultrarunning", passed away at the age of 88. The International Assocation of Athletics Federations (IAAF) posted this about Corbitt on their web site.

Distance running inspiration Ted Corbitt passes away at 88

Wednesday 12 December 2007
Ted Corbitt, 1952 Olympian, training pioneer, administrator, and author, has passed away at the age of 88.

Born in 1919 in South Carolina, USA, into an African-American family, Corbitt as a child ran to and from school in an era of racial discrimination in which there was only school transport available for white children. Corbitt was never bitter and found great enjoyment in that daily regime. When as an older student he read a newspaper article about Theodore Ellison "Tarzan" Brown, the Narragansett Indian who won two editions of the Boston Marathon in the 1930s, that childhood enthusiasm for running was turned into a lifelong passion.

During college, segregation kept Corbitt out of many interstate meets and generally restricted his competitive opportunities as a runner. He graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a masters’ degree with honours in physical education and then studied to become a physical therapist, but always retained serious thoughts of competitive running.

At a time when there was very little knowledge in the area of professional training available to runners, most of his early self coaching was experimental. Using the methods of Czech Olympic legend Emil Zatopek as the foundation of his training he added a lot of resistance exercises to his own regime and married speed sessions with long slow runs.

Corbitt debuted at the marathon at the age of 32 with a 15th place finish in the 1951 Boston Marathon and after two further marathons was selected for the Helsinki Olympic team.

During a career which lasted well into his 50s Corbitt ran just under 200 marathons and ultra marathon races. His strength and stamina were legendary. At age 54 he ran his 175th marathon in Boston in a time of 2:49:16, less than one minute slower than his first marathon 23 years earlier. His fastest marathon time was 2:26:44 in 1958. He held the American record at 25 Miles, at the Marathon distance, and at 40 and 50 Miles.

Corbitt was the first President of the Road Runners Club of America, and as the third President of the New York Road Runners Club, he pushed for a masters category for runners over the age of forty, knowing that it would bring out the retired racers who couldn't compete successfully any longer in the younger arena.

Largely responsible for the movement to adhere to strict measurement criteria and course certification, Corbitt’s 1964 book, 'Measuring Road Running Courses', became the benchmark for certified road race courses at the time and is the foundation upon which accurate road racing rests today.


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