Running for Ted
- 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
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
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!
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