10 NYC Marathon Moments That Made History

10 NYC Marathon Moments That Made History

The ING New York City Marathon is known as one of the largest marathons in the world, attracting about 47,000 runners from all over the world. The marathon’s history is rife with hundreds of incredible moments. This year, in the wake of devastating Hurricane Sandy, the race will definitely go down in history. “There will be substantial modifications to the logistics and operations of the race…due to the impact of the storm,” according to an email from New York Road Runners to this year’s runners. To inspire us to push to the finish line (literally), we dug into the marathon’s history to find the 10 most inspiring NYC marathon moments.

10. Wrong Way Silva
A wrong turn has never been so…right. In 1994 German Silva and Benjamin Paredes were neck-and-neck—until Silva followed a police vehicle off course just a half-mile from the finish line. While we felt bad, we also had a little chuckle, thinking it was over and that Paredes had it in the bag. But we spoke too soon: Silva retraced his steps, caught up with Paredes and won the marathon while coining the term Wrong Way Silva.


9. America Wins

In 2009 Meb Keflezighi was the first American to win the NYC Marathon after a 27-year dry spell. Anything that allows Americans to redeem a little pride is inspiring in our book.


8. Cloud of Dust

In 1982, Alberto Salazar was attempting to win his third consecutive NYC Marathon. In the last 600 meters it seemed unlikely. That is, until he appeared out of a cloud of dust (although we like to believe it was magic, the dust was kicked up by a police motorcycle) and passed his competitors to win the race.


7. Last Place Wins the Race

Zoe Koplowitz suffers from diabetes and multiple sclerosis. She has also completed 23 NYC Marathons as of 2011 at the age of 63, and has set the world record for the longest marathon finish time in the history of women’s running. She has come in last place in all 23 attempts, and could not be more proud. Zoe Koplowitz gives a positive spin to coming in “last place.”


6. Nine Out of Eleven

The late, and most definitely great, Grete Waitz set her first world record (of many) when she ran the NYC Marathon for the first time in 1978. She ran the marathon 11 times after that, and in 1988 won her ninth NYC Marathon and the title of the most marathon wins ever.

5. Four-Day Finish

In 1969 Bob Wieland was declared dead (mistakenly) after stepping on a mortar mine while serving in Vietnam. Seventeen years later he became the first person without legs to finish the New York City Marathon. He finished in about four days, using only his arms. He inspired amputees all over the world, but he probably would have finished quicker without the inspired fans stopping him along the route.

photo by The New York Daily News


4. Everyone’s Invited

When the NYC Marathon humbly launched in 1970, it consisted of four loops around Central Park. In 1976, at the rise of the running boom, founder Fred Lebow boldly decided to take the marathon to the streets of NYC, emcompassing all five boroughs. The success of this change thrusted the New York City Marathon into the spotlight and “launched road racing into the fastlane of fitness,” according to New York Road Runners.


3. The Apartheid Ends

In 1992 Willie Mtolo went from apartheid to the winners circle. International sanctions against South African athletes had just been lifted and Mtolo wasted no time getting to the finish line in New York City. That year, he was not only the first South African to complete the NYC Marathon, he was also the first South African to win the NYC Marathon.

2. Chilean Miner

As if surviving being trapped in a mine for 69 days wasn’t enough for this Chilean miner, he had to tackle the NYC Marathon a month after being rescued. During Edison Pena’s terrifying time stuck in the mine he was working at in 2010, he ran six to seven miles every day in his mining boots. It sounds crazy to us, but to Pena it was essential to surviving and encouraging his fellow captives. Not only did he inspire the miners, he got the attention of the New York Road Runners. Inspired by Pena’s feat of endurance and his perserverence, NYRR invited him to run in the NYC Marathon, which he finished in just under 6 hours despite knee pain.


1. NYC Marathon Founder Finishes the Race

Fred Lebow is the visionary who founded the NYC Marathon in 1970 and turned it into one of sport’s and NYC’s signature events. The legendary Grete Waitz won the NYC Marathon for the first time in 1978, after which she and Lebow became fast friends. In 1992, two years after Lebow had been diagnosed with brain cancer, he decided to celebrate his 60th birthday by running the marathon—despite his waning health—with his longtime friend, Waitz. This race provided a lasting memory, not because of who was in the front of the pack, but because of the inspiring couple in the back: Lebow and Waitz. Waitz coached him through the pain and they finished together after five and a half hours, ending in an emotional embrace that will never be forgotten. Despite Waitz’s many marathon wins, this was the finest moment of her NYC Marathon career. With Waitz’s friendship and support, Lebow was able to win the race he started in 1970. 

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