The New York Marathon (officially, the TCS New York City Marathon) began as a small race with just 55 finishers in 1970. In 2017, 98,000 athletes applied, and only 50,000 were chosen to run the race.
The first race was organized by Fred Lebow and Vince Chiappetta in 1970. The entry fee was just $1 and the budget for the event was $1,000.
For 6 years, the entire marathon took place in Central Park. It was only in 1976 that the race first encompassed all five boroughs. It was done as a Bicentennial celebration that year, but the redesign became standard after seeing such a successful turnout. It’s reported that Brooklyn is the fastest borough because of its flat terrain.
Although the marathon was always a big event for the city, it wasn’t inclusive for women for the first few years. The AAU had rules that segregated women from other runners. In 1972, the six women registered in the race sat on the starting line with signs as the gun went off, protesting the way they were treated. Today, the number of men and women who race each year is almost equal, and competitors come from all over the world.
Bringing a City Together
The November 2001 marathon was something no New Yorker will ever forget. Less than two months after the September 11 terrorist attacks, the marathon was an event that brought the city together and reminded everyone that there was still hope and strength surging through the community.
We then saw that same community spirit in 2012. The marathon was canceled due to effects of SuperStorm Sandy, but that wasn’t enough to stop the dedicated runners of New York. Thousands of people came together in Central Park and ran together on the day of the canceled race. That same Sunday, other athletes traveled elsewhere around the city to support recovery efforts.
In 2000, the race became more than just a marathon for runners. The New York City Marathon began featuring separate Wheelchair and Hand Cycle divisions, giving athletes with disabilities a chance to compete. However, 2000 wasn’t the first year a disabled athlete crossed the finish line. A disabled Vietnam War veteran completed the race in 1986 after 98 hours. A double amputee, Bob Wieland used only his arms to run all 26.2 miles. His famous comment to the New York Times: “I finished ahead of 300 million Americans who never finished the race.”
Beyond that, charity runners donate millions every year and donate the money to hundreds of charitable organizations. In 2014, $34.5 million was donated, along with all the clothes runners shed at the beginning of the race.
The 2016 TCS New York City Marathon set a record for the largest number of finishers. The 51,394 runners who crossed the finish line that day helped place the New York Marathon as the world’s largest marathon.
Each year, athletes continue to run around New York City in hopes of beating their own personal best, or maybe even the course record.