Ted Corbitt, "the father of American distance running," dies.
December 13, 2007 11:37 AM   Subscribe

"In 1968, I received an invitation to the hundred-mile run at Walton-on-Thames, England, scheduled for October 1969. I pulled out all the stops for this one, running every marathon possible and enduring unheard-of training mileage when not racing. In July alone I ran a thousand miles, two hundred short of my goal[...]My only goal was to break the existing American record of 16:07:43." (Which he did, finishing in 13:33; still the U.S. 45 to 49 100-mile record.) Ted Corbitt, Olympian, American Record holder at 100 miles, died yesterday. NYT obit.

From an interview in UltraRunning Magazine:
UR: Were you working full-time when you were putting in high mileage?

TC: Yes, 40 hours a week. [Ted has been a physical therapist from 1948 to the present.] The only time I took off from work was to go to the Boston Marathon. Otherwise I just took my regular vacation time for trips and races. Some Boston Marathons were on Saturdays, which was not a day off in New York. So I would have to take the day off to run it.
posted by OmieWise (13 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Thanks very much for this. What an extraordinary person!
posted by bepe at 12:35 PM on December 13, 2007

Wow. Did they ever find out what was chasing him?
posted by illuminatus at 12:45 PM on December 13, 2007


Full stop.
posted by ardgedee at 12:53 PM on December 13, 2007

13:33 is just crazy!

That dude will be missed...
posted by ph00dz at 2:15 PM on December 13, 2007

Interesting guy. Further reading found that he and Sandra Kiddy were the two Inaugural Inductees into the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame in 2004.

The NYT Obit mentions that he was among the first five athletes inducted into the National Distance Running Hall of Fame, but not the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame. Kinda cool, being in more than one.
posted by kisch mokusch at 2:22 PM on December 13, 2007

Fascinating, I'm actually sitting in Walton-on-Thames so a well timed article from my perspective, if not from the subject's.
posted by biffa at 3:09 PM on December 13, 2007

holy Jesus, nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo




posted by seawallrunner at 7:56 PM on December 13, 2007

Well, that does it. I'm going for a run tomorrow morning. School, work, cold weather, etc... I can't remember the last time I scraped together the will to just go out there and try.

Goodbye to an amazing person.
posted by bookish at 9:14 PM on December 13, 2007

Reading his own account, it's hard to doubt the people who compare running to addiction. There's this whole casual "I'll just do a bit more" thing, with sometimes blatant disregard for what's really good for you.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:54 PM on December 13, 2007

That guy, as they say, is a beast. I would never run distance that great, but I have run a fair bit before.

Back when I was in high school I participated in a 24 hour 'relay' (several teams, one person on each team running a mile and then someone else running a mile, etc). In addition to the laps I ran for my team, I ran additional laps as this was a fund raising venture and I would get more money the more I ran. Anyway, I actually led the men for most number of miles that day and I hit 40 at the end. Here's the kicker: I didn't run the furthest distance that day, but the 2nd furthest. The record holder on the female side got somewhere above 50 miles, if I remember correctly. In fact, I think she beat the all-time record for the event.

Doing 40 miles was a very bad idea for me. It took me over a week to recover and there was, in fact, a race a week after that relay. Wasn't that big of a deal from a team standpoint as I was in fact pretty slow for the normal distances.

I haven't kept up running, unfortunately. Especially since I can't eat the same amount of food as I used to! It'd be nice to finish a marathon and I'm sure I could do it if I had the base.
posted by Green With You at 10:08 PM on December 13, 2007

Reading his own account, it's hard to doubt the people who compare running to addiction. There's this whole casual "I'll just do a bit more" thing, with sometimes blatant disregard for what's really good for you.

I think you have to be predisposed to look for that in order to find it. He doesn't describe major ill-effects from his training volume, he doesn't talk about huge periods of time sidelined by injury (every athlete suffers some downtime from injury), he doesn't talk about disruption to his life, he lists a progressively better series of accomplishments that continue to the end of his career, he writes with a sense of balance and calm, and there's a marked lack of desperation in both his descriptions of the past and his tone in the piece. You may not be able to fathom someone wanting to spend their life running, and certainly Corbitt maintained very high mileage training, but the accusation of addiction seems entirely borne out of your prejudice.
posted by OmieWise at 5:00 AM on December 14, 2007

This is sad news indeed; thanks for linking that passage from First Marathons.

I ran my first marathon over the weekend, and am recovering comfortably though I strained my foot during the race (the effect of blatantly disregarding a bit of a twist during my last long training run)... seems pretty minor compared logging thousands of miles in chinos with a chronically sprained ankle and encountering cops with guns blazing.

Ted's memories have got me ready to get back out there, though. Nice to see that someone who got such a late start in marathons (at age 32) could have such an amazing career... I'm 31, so it gives me hope.
posted by activitystory at 8:06 AM on December 14, 2007

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