I became a serious runner in the late 1970’s. When I decided to train for half and full marathons there weren’t any local, The Runner’s Handbook: A Complete Fitness Guide for Men and Women on the Run (1978 edition) by Bob Glover and Jack Sherpherd wrote, “Ted Corbitt is so famous as a runner that a book was written about him.”
He was a trailblazer in the running community. His son and NBMA member, Gary Corbitt, provided the following information and photos about his father.
Olympian – Physical Therapist – Editor – Administrator – Educator
A Founding Father of Long Distance Running
The Father of Ultra- Marathon Running in the United States
An American Pioneer
The Ted Corbitt Record – Historical First
- In 1952 became the first African American to represent U.S.A. in the Olympic Marathon. The Olympics were held in Helsinki, Finland. He finished 44th in 2:51:09.
- Ted Corbitt won the National U.S.A. Marathon Championship in 1954, and became the first African American to win a national marathon championship. Also he became the first known African American to win a marathon in the United States. Ted Corbitt would place 3rd in the U.S. Marathon Championship on four occasions (1952, 1955, 1957,1958).
- He was first president of the New York Road Runners Club (NYRR) in 1958 and 1959. The club now stages the world’s largest marathon in the world – New York City Marathon. In 1958 the club started with 29 charter members and now has over 60,000 members.
- He was the first editor (1958- 1978) of New York Runner the official publication of the New York Road Runners Club.
- Ted Corbitt was inducted in the inaugural National Distance Running Hall of Fame Class in 1998. The inaugural class included Joan Benoit Samuelson, Kathrine Switzer, Frank Shorter, and Bill Rodgers.
The Ted Corbitt – American Records
- Ted Corbitt held the record for most consecutive Boston Marathons run under 3 hours from 1954 – 1972.
- Ted Corbitt was ranked #2 in the world for Ultra-Marathon running throughout the 1960’s. Ultra-Marathons are races longer than the 26.2 mile marathon distance. On three occasions (1962, 1964, 1969), he set American road records at the London-to-Brighton 52.5 mile road race.
- On October 15, 1966, he set an American Record for running 50 miles on the track. His time was 5:54:15.
- On November 28, 1968, Ted Corbitt at age 49 became the oldest American to win a U.S. national running title. He won the National 50 mile road championship in Poughkeepsie, New York.
- On October 25 – 26, 1969, he set an American Record for running 100 miles on the track. His time was 13:33:06 at age 50.
- On October 25, 1970, he set an American age group (50-54) record for 50 miles on the road. The record still stands today 42 years later.
- On November 3 – 4, 1973, he set an American Record for running 24 Hours on the track. His distance was 134.7 miles at age 54.
The Ted Corbitt – World Records
- On four occasions Ted Corbitt completed 300 mile training weeks while working full-time. The most weekly mileage run was done September 1 -7, 1966. The totals were 312.5 miles or averaging 44.6 miles per day. It’s believed this a record for documented weekly running mileage.
- Was history’s most prolific marathon runner from May 1969 until April 1981. During this 12 year period, Ted Corbitt went from 132 marathons to 198 marathons finished. He held the distinction of having run more marathons than anyone in the history of the sport.
- At age 82 in 2001, he walked 303 miles in 6 days setting an age group world record for a 6 day running event.
Ted Corbitt’s finishing position among Americans at Boston
- 3rd Place: 1952, 1954, 1955, 1957, 1958*
- 4th Place: 1956
- 5th Place: 1959
- *Unofficial finisher
The Ted Corbitt – Historical Milestones
- Ted Corbitt competed for the New York Pioneer Club (NYPC) his entire road running career starting in 1947. The New York Pioneer Club was started in 1936 by Joseph Yancey an African American. The club was a model for racial integration during the Jim Crow era as athletes were of all races, creeds and abilities.
- During the 1950’s, Ted Corbitt was consistently among the top 5 American finishers at the Boston Marathon.
- His marathon personal record of 2:26:44 was set January 5, 1958 at the Shanahan Marathon in Philadelphia. At the time this was the third fastest time ever recorded by an American.
- Was the third President of the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) in 1960 & 1961. The RRCA is the oldest and largest national association of running clubs in the country with currently over 200,000 members.
- Was the first editor (1960) of the Road Runners Club of America’s national publication now called “Club Running.”
- Authored and published the booklet “Measuring Road Running Courses” in August 1964. This document initiated a program for accurate course measurement in the U.S.A. This ensured the legitimacy of the sport of long distance running with verifiable record keeping.
- His lifetime total marathons and ultra-marathons completed were 221.
- In 1966, he became the second runner in the history of the sport to finish 100 marathons.
Ted Corbitt – Physical Therapist, Master Clinician and Teacher of Physical Therapy
- Ted Corbitt worked for 44 years at the International Center for the Disabled starting in 1950. He continued to treat patients until 3 months before his passing at age 88.
- He was one of the first African Americans to enter the Physical Therapy profession. He was a long time member of the American Physical Therapy Association and was active with the New York chapter in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
- He specialized in Deep Muscle Therapy, Connective Tissue Massage,Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation Techniques, Progressive Resistive Exercises, and Guthrie-Smith Apparatus
- He was an early advocate (1950’s) in the United States for applying acupuncture techniques in his practice and the use of weight training for athletes.
- He was a teacher at many venues including 20 years at Columbia University.
- He co-authored a book on Hydrotherapy in 1960.
- New York University: MA in Physical Therapy
Source: Ted Corbitt Archives 2013