- This is an article I recently wrote for our Inspiration Letters website that I wanted to share here with those who may not read the Letters.
Mahiruha has been doing a great job for years inspiring us to offer our talents, limited as they might be for some of us, to inspire and be inspired by various themes and subjects.
The theme for this past issue is 'Legends'. Without further ado I would like to share mine here as I feel many people could relate to the main subject of my offering, Ted Corbitt.
Here it is:
When we think of a legend we may think of a historical story which may be either of known or unknown origins and may even have some embellishment added. Usually the protagonist or main character of a story or of some other important events can be referred to as a legend as well. Regardless of how we describe what or who a legend is, a legend usually is intended to inspire us, motivate us or uplift us in some way, shape or form.
Of the many great people which I have met through Sri Chinmoy, who himself is a great legend in many fields of endeavor, the ones that inspire me the most are some of the legendary runners. Since I have been a regular runner for four decades and have focused on long distance racing for almost as long, I always took advantage of the valuable motivation offered by some of the running legends of our time, some of whom are still alive as well as some who have unfortunately passed away.
The traditional 26.2 mile or 42 km Marathon is a race which has inspired millions around the world for over half a century. In the Olympic Games in Munich, Germany in 1972, an American runner by the name of Frank Shorter won the gold medal in the Marathon. This single event inspired many runners of that era to train for and run marathons.
Since then hundreds of marathons have been administered in the U.S. and in the world in general with millions of runners of all standards to attempt this long distance feat of strength, speed and determination.
But even before the `marathon fever' began with legends such as Frank Shorter, one of the greatest long distance running legends of all time was Ted Corbitt. This quiet spoken and humble runner from South Carolina who later made his home in New York City started running marathons well before most people even knew what this distance was.
Although the Marathon officially started in the late 19th century in the modern Olympic Games instituted in Greece and was an annual tradition in Boston, Mass., U.S.A. since 1896, it was not widely accepted by long distance runners until the televised Olympics in the 70's helped to popularize it.
In 1952, in the Helsinki Olympics, Ted Corbitt ran for the U.S. Olympic Team in the Marathon along with another running legend, Emil Zatopek. The latter made legendary history by winning gold in the 5 km, 10km and Marathon races all in this one Olympics. He had never run a marathon race before this one but still had the strength and speed to win it after winning the other two races days before.
Although Ted Corbitt did not have a good race in this 1952 Olympics marathon he still managed to place 44th. Nevertheless, he went on to run and win many marathons since then. In January 1954, he won the Philadelphia Marathon, the first of his four wins there. In May 1954, he won the Yonkers Marathon, becoming the U.S. National Marathon Champion. At various times, Ted held the U.S. track records for distances of 25 miles, the marathon, 40 miles, 50 miles and 100 miles and 24 hours. He remained a nationally competitive runner well into his fifties.
For many years, Ted ran more than 20 miles a day from his home in Bronx, heading north to Yonkers, a New York City suburb, and then south to his office in downtown Manhattan. On some days, he also ran home. Sometimes Ted would run up to 200 miles a week, far more than almost any other distance runner. One workout he often ran involved 17 miles on the track, followed by 13 miles on roads.
One week in 1964, Ted ran 300 miles for training. He repeated this weekly distance three more times that year. During the 1960's Ted would travel to England to compete in the 52.5 mile London to Brighton road race, finishing second three times and fourth and fifth in other years.
In 1998, Ted Corbitt was among the first five runners to be inducted into the National Distance Running Hall of Fame. Ted was also inducted into the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame, on its inauguration in April 2006.
In 2001 at the age of 82 Ted walked 302 miles in 6 days at the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence Six-Day Race, over 50 miles a day! In 2003, at 84, Ted completed a 24-hour race by walking 68 miles, finishing 17th in a field of 35. Some runners were awed by his presence; others had no idea who he was. I was fortunate to be in this race as well and spent some time walking with Ted as he told me some of his helpful and inspiring `secrets'.
At 87, he was still volunteering at ultramarathon races in New York and sometimes even competing. He was still working out at age 88 and continued to treat physiotherapy patients. Ted also had embarked on a project to walk all the streets of Manhattan just before falling ill in 2007.
Having met Ted in 1978 and having the honor and privilege of running and walking with him in various races since then I could truly say, just as every other runner who ever knew him may agree, that he was a legend of legends in the running (and walking) world.
Still others knew him as a legendary physical therapist who understood firsthand all the possible injuries and pains, especially those of runners, and consequently how to successfully treat them. Yet his legendary status did not stem just from his tremendous outer accomplishments but also from his humble, kind and unassuming personality.
Perhaps the words of Sri Chinmoy in this song dedicated to Ted Corbitt best personify the true legendary status of this great soul.
"Ted Corbitt, Ted Corbitt, Ted!
Measureless miles your legs did paint.
A brave champion is found
In Heavenly Silence-Sound."
I must say from a strictly personal point of view that among all of the running legends of our era that I was fortunate enough to meet and spend time with, as well as all those who I never got to meet but was nevertheless deeply inspired by, Ted Corbitt stands out as the most legendary of all time. If one wanted to best define what or who a legend truly is, I must say that Ted Corbitt is a name synonymous with the definition of `Legend'.
- Dear Arpan,
I may also translate into spanish partly of your beautiful article on Ted Corbitt´s significant life and share with readers from other countries who don´t know him yet.
It is a very inspiring and uplifting Legend. Thank you!
- Gracias Suchana,
Yes I think it is a great idea for many more people to be inspired by Ted Corbitt. Guru himself was so inspired by and respectful of Ted that any time he heard that Ted was at our races he would come to greet Ted.
One time Ted and I were walking around the 3100 mile race course to see the course and greet the runners. Guru was being driven there and as soon as he saw Ted walking on the sidewalk he had his driver stop the car immediately on the street. Guru quickly came out to greet Ted and they had a long conversation about running and walking while standing on the corner.
Ted was about 84 years old then and Guru was about 72. Ted was explaining why he had to stop running many years before and just walk in the races. He had a bronchial problem that would not heal but that did not stop him from walking marathons, ultramarathons and multiday races.
Guru had stopped running many years before also for various physical reasons. They both then agreed that walking was the best exercise. Of course they still loved to see those of us who are well enough to run and race whenever we can.
I learned from Ted and from Guru that running and walking combined can allow us to go further especially as we get older and try to avoid injuries.
So that is my point of view which some people may or may not agree with according to their own capacities. The 3100 mile race for many of the runners is a balance of running and walking. As long as we are moving forward to a meaningful goal then the speed does not always matter. I feel that the motivation, inspiration and aspiration while remaining happy is the most important factor in striving for our goals.
- Thanks to you again, Arpan, for posting some extra details about Guru and one of his best friends. Ted Corbitt is such a beautiful example to follow in the healthy running world.
Me also, I´ll keep their tips in mind!