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Running for Ted

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  • arpan_deangelo
    This past weekend, Oct.4-5, there was a special 24 hour race to honor Ted Corbitt, the pioneer long distance runner from New York who passed away in December,
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 6, 2008
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      This past weekend, Oct.4-5, there was a special 24 hour race to honor
      Ted Corbitt, the pioneer long distance runner from New York who passed
      away in December, only two months after Sri Chinmoy. Ted and Sri Chinmoy
      were good friends and would often see each other when Ted would visit
      our local races in New York. Four of us from the Sri Chinmoy Marathon
      Team were among the 66 runners who ran the race in a nice park in
      Queens, NYC.
      I wrote this article the morning after completing the race when I was
      not inspired to move around too much. For results of the race you can go
      to the link: http://www.newyorkultrarunning.org/

      Running For Ted

      by Arpan De Angelo

      It is the morning after the Ted Corbitt Memorial 24 Hour Run in Queens,
      New York, and the strongest memories I have of that race are in my legs
      right now. Just about everything hurts, but I sit here in a comfortable
      chair gladly typing my recollection of the race with joy and gratitude
      in my heart for having had the opportunity to participate in this
      meaningful and memorable event.

      Gary Corbitt, Ted's son, made a trip up from Florida to be part of
      the race which was organized by the local running club called
      `Broadway Ultra Society' or `BUS'. Rich Innamorato, the
      Director of BUS, was a very close friend of Ted. They spent a good
      amount of time together over the years, mostly involved with running,
      and Ted had participated in many of the BUS events as well.

      After some introductions by Rich and a short and stirring speech about
      Ted by Gary, four members of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team, including
      myself, sang a very special song for Ted, called `Ted Corbitt,
      Runner-Saint'. The song was written by Sri Chinmoy many years ago.
      Sri Chinmoy is the internationally well known spiritual leader who was a
      good friend of Ted Corbitt for three decades. Sri Chinmoy organized a
      marathon team in 1977, around the same time he met Ted. The Sri Chinmoy
      Marathon Team,(SCMT), has sponsored thousands of races of all lengths
      around the world for thirty one years.
      In New York the SCMT is well known for their Ultramarathons, especially
      Multi-Day races, which Ted used to love to come and visit. He loved
      watching the runners for hours as we talked about his experiences in
      races of all lengths, from track to Six Day events which he completed
      twice.

      Many of these and other fond memories of Ted and Sri Chinmoy were in my
      head as I nervously started this long journey along with about 65 other
      brave runners. Although I have run many 24 hour races over the years it
      is always a bit foreboding to stand on the starting line knowing what
      lies ahead for the next day and night. I came to this race not to
      compete but only to complete. To run, and walk if necessary, for the
      full 24 hours to honor Ted and his immortal achievements and
      contributions to the running world and other aspects of life as well,
      was the only thing on my mind as I began the race. This race was also to
      honor the 35th Anniversary of Ted's 24- Hour American Record which
      he set in 1973 at the age of 54! He ran over 134 miles that day which
      would have won this race by more than 10 miles.

      I had the privilege and honor to run with Ted's son, Gary, for the
      first three hours or so. It was a wonderful way to pass the time as we
      talked just about everything under the sun. Of course, Ted and running
      were the main topic of discussion as we ran a comfortable ten minute per
      mile pace on this clear and cool October morning.
      Gary, who is not a trained ultra marathon runner, was planning to run at
      least 30 miles to honor both his father, who passed away in December
      2007, and his mother who passed away in 1989. Even though his legs are
      used to only much shorter and faster distances, Gary happily kept
      running and eventually walking briskly as he gladly conversed with many
      of the runners for seven hours.

      Gary's presence and participation in the race made all the
      difference in the world when it came to thinking of Ted and feeling his
      kind and gentle but determined spirit which Gary so graciously embodies
      as well. It also helps somewhat that Gary is a `spitting image'
      of Ted, a younger version of the same build, features and character of
      his great father.

      The rest of the race had its ups and downs as usual in such a long
      event. I was not sure how seriously I would take running the whole way,
      but usually if I feel good I run as much and as hard as I can when I
      enter a race. The most important thing to me though while spending all
      this time running around the 1.2 mile (or about 2 Km) loop was to keep
      my mind on Ted, also thinking of his wonderful friendship to Sri
      Chinmoy, who passed away only two months before Ted in 2007.

      I felt as if they were finally at rest both after a very long lifetime
      of hard work and contributions to humanity in many arenas, especially
      the sport of long distance running. I seemed to gain more confidence and
      strength as I imagined both of them watching and encouraging us from
      their heavenly abode. Singing a few lines of the Ted Corbitt song
      occasionally to myself also gave me a strong rhythm to keep my pace
      steady and my mind positive and focused.

      The first twelve hours went quite well for me, but as the darkness set
      in and the fatigue started affecting the legs and overall energy, it
      took much more effort to get around the course at a decent pace. But by
      the middle of the night, around 3 a.m., I was told that I took over the
      lead. This was more disturbing in a way than good news, because now I
      felt like I was here to compete and to push harder than I would normally
      have. But I never wanted to lose my focus on Ted.

      I knew both the runner who I just passed and the third place runner who
      was not far behind us. We are good friends and I also knew that they
      have run and won more races than I have in recent years. I did not care
      if I could hold the lead but felt only that I was running for Ted and
      whatever happens I would accept cheerfully. But I did get more
      determination thinking that neither Ted nor Sri Chinmoy would ever give
      up when the pressure was on. I just ran as well as I could and tried
      not to stop or waste too much time. I still took short walking breaks,
      especially on one of the two short but steep hills on each loop. This
      seemed to relax me briefly as I made sure my mind was focused on
      positive thoughts and renewed energy, especially for the legs which were
      not feeling any better as time went on.

      There were some very experienced ultra runner veterans who had come to
      run this race just to honor Ted. I knew most of them and also knew that
      it was a real effort for them to run here, as most of them were not
      presently training for ultra racing. Running and walking with them and
      some of the other wonderful people who were struggling around the course
      throughout the night also gave me joy and passed the time more quickly,
      or so it seemed.

      The last six hours of the race were the toughest as usual for obvious
      reasons. Besides the fact that the body was quite sore and exhausted
      from 18 straight hours running around the course, we also had another
      unexpected challenge. The rains came, off and on, along with a cold wind
      at times. For hours we had to try to stay warm as the weather
      unexpectedly changed from good to bad in the small hours of the morning.

      This brought back fond memories of the last 24 hour race that we ran
      for Ted when he was still alive. He bravely participated in this race as
      well, walking the whole way as bronchial problems kept him from running
      for many years. In that race in 2003 the temperature dropped at night to
      below freezing and Rich was considering stopping the race at 12 hours
      for Ted's sake. But Ted refused to quit or to have the race stopped
      for him. He pushed on through the freezing night, and at age 84 he
      completed an amazing 69 miles. These are the kind of memories of Ted
      that could give the strength and determination to anyone who feels that
      they are struggling through personal challenges such as the one we found
      ourselves involved in presently.

      In the last few hours of the race I was just trying to stay in second
      place as my friend Byron took the lead again and was determined to hold
      it. He is the local hero ultra runner in the New York area and it was an
      honor to run in the same race as him. I could not have imagined when we
      started the race that I would be so close as to challenge this great
      local runner for the lead. Only one mile separated us at the end, and
      even though I came in second place I was so pleased and honored to be
      here for Ted.

      It was still cloudy, damp and cold at the awards ceremony as all the
      runners and helpers struggled to stay warm after such a long and
      challenging experience. But things warmed greatly when Gary came to hand
      out the beautiful plaques of Ted Corbitt which almost every runner
      received. We also were pleasantly surprised to each receive a CD photo
      album of the first half of the race kindly donated by Jowan, a
      photographer from the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team who spent hours taking
      wonderful photos of the runners and helpers and then many more hours
      making over 70 photo CD's for everyone.

      Even with the uncomfortable weather, everyone seemed to bask in the
      glowing spirit of Ted Corbitt. All the runners from first to last, all
      the wonderful volunteers who pushed on through the night and the cold
      and wet morning to make sure we were taken care of, and of course Rich
      Innamorato and his wonderful crew of organizers truly brought Ted back
      to us for another great race in which I am sure Ted enjoyed more than
      all of us. Thank You Ted!

      Gratefully,
      Arpan





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