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Ted Corbitt was one of the most remarkable men of his generation. Period.

His achievement in making the US Olympic marathon team in 1952 as an Afro-American distance runner was notable, his major impact on developing the US Ultra scene and subsequently contesting the then de facto World Ultra Championships - the London to Brighton was important, he was among the leading two or three runners each time he ran. He also set numerous US Ultra track records. He was, in my opinion, the greatest American ultrarunner of the second half of the 20th century.

However it is his work in the RRCA, in developing the calibrated bicycle method of course measurement in the United States, following the pioneering work of John Jewell in England, that was truly historic. It was to lead to the present day US Road Race Industry which is so influential world wide.

It was when I was investigating how the word "Ultramarathon" came to be coined, that I got the true measure of the man. The reply I got back from him was probably the most detailed and well researched I have ever received.

It was he who had actually coined the word, replacing the previous titles like Supermarathon etc.

Ted Corbitt was not just a great runner, not just a great athletics adminstrator, he was much more than that.

All – be sure to see the beautiful obituary that Frank Litsky wrote in the NY Times (see and Dick Patrick had a nice mention in the sport section of USA Today with a beautiful photo.

WMurphy25 writes;

Here are the links to those stories
Last edited by peteriegel

I first learned of the existence of Ted Corbitt when I was beginning to become a course measurer. I sent him paperwork, and he replied with his trademark typewritten certificates.

Around 1982 Ted expanded the certification system, as its burden was becoming more than he could handle alone. USATF (then TAC) formed the Road Running Technical Council, and I was its third Chairman.

Although Ted was my precursor and mentor, I had few contacts with him. Our correspondence occurred perhaps once or twice a year. Although he may have had an opinion on how I was continuing his work, he never expressed approval or disapproval. I believe I had some brief words with him at a few USATF and RRCA meetings, but no long conversations.

Ted had family in Cincinnati, and 1988 he contacted me. He was to be given an award by a group of Ohio coaches, and he asked me to introduce him at the awards ceremony. I did so, trying my best to be as eloquent as some of the tributes we have seen. I believe I said something like “standing on the shoulders of giants” which I felt appropriate to express the debt we owe him

He stayed with us for a day before journeying on to Cincinnati, thence back home to New York. He was a quiet man, polite and soft-spoken. He ate little, staying with vegetables. While he was here I asked him to autograph my copy of “Corbitt” by John Chodes. He inscribed a short note which I treasure.
USATF is fond of presenting innumerable awards at its yearly meeting. Might I suggest RRTC present an annual "Ted Corbitt Award" to the person who has done the most to advance the work of measurement in the past year? From a selfish standpoint, it would give RRTC a higher profile in the organization.

I got the following reply from USATF President Bill Roe when I broached this idea with him:
I don't know if there are others in the MUT/Measurement combined community who we should be thinking about as namees for awards (I think MUT's two ultra awards are currently the Ted Corbitt and Ruth Anderson awards for athletes. But perhaps we could consider calling the total ultra/MUT package "The Ted Corbitt Awards" (plural) and then, within that, have the separate awards, named where appropriate.

If you just want to have a Ted Corbitt RRTC award, that's okay, too. There are two Horace Crow awards, because both Associations and Officials felt he belonged to them...
Last edited by jimgerweck
An award should be special, and they increasingly are not. I first noticed this as a parent when I went to Cub Scout meetings. Seemed like every kid there got an award, and it was interminable. It was also meaningless, as when everybody gets an award there is no distinction in receiving it. I once won a 17th place trophy in a race. You can imagine how I treasure it. They should have saved their money.

I believe USATF may be going that way too. I’ve attended a number of Annual Meetings and have sat through a number of awards presentations. There are so many that they all blend together into a meaningless blur. I also was at a meeting where it was being decided who should get one of the rather prestigious awards, and was surprised that nobody had really thought about it beforehand. The process of picking the honoree was quite offhand and informal – it was just another administrative chore to be gotten through.

The pool of potential recipients of the award would likely be someone in RRTC, and there aren’t that many of us. It would not take long to work our way through all the potential recipients. The selectors would likely be from RRTC also – perhaps the “Awards Subcommittee” or something.

All in all I can’t see how such an award would really honor Ted’s name. He was respected in his lifetime, and anything we can do in this regard has already been done or not done. We have had our chance. Adding his name to the already too long list of USATF people who have awards named after them will not add to his reputation nor benefit him in any way.
Pete's point is well taken, but I feel that others need to comment if we should have an award which would be in the name of Ted Corbitt.

I agree with Bill Roe that this should be something done by the RRTC if it is the feeling of our people. I will put something out to the Council to get there feelings, however I welcome others to comment here.

Gene Newman

From: "Pete League" <>
Date: December 29, 2007 2:02:43 PM CST
To: "Jack Leydig" <>, "Mary Ann and Tom McBrayer" <>, "Joe Henderson" <>
Subject: a picture for you


I thought you might enjoy this photograph of Ted Corbitt.

It was taken in (I believe) 1959. The location is Philadelphia. I believe it was during the Shanahan Catholic Club marathon.

I found this among some slides I had stored in an old metal slide box, along with some slides taken at he first Atlantic City Marathon in October 1959.

Notice the strong stride, with both feet off the ground. I do not know who the other fellow is.

All the best.

Was this a race that Ted won? Check out:
Last edited by peteriegel
Ted Corbitt at the Measurement of the 1985 New York City Marathon

From the July 8, 1985 measurement report:

At the request of Bill Noel, three measurers (Bob Letson, Wayne Nicoll and Pete Riegel) came to New York on Thursday, June 20, 1985, to lay out the 1985 New York City Marathon. They were joined by Bill Noel, David Katz, and Terpsie Toon, who measured, and by Ted Corbitt, Sally Nicoll, Allan Steinfeld and Fred Lebow, who served in various recording, direction and advisory capacities. The measurement work occupied most of the next three days.

Here are some pictures taken at the measurement.

Ted Corbitt

Ted, Wayne, Pete, Fred

Allan, Terpsie, Fred, Wayne, Sally

Bill, Sally, Pete

Terpsie, David

Terpsie, Bob, Bill, Pete

Pete, Fred, Ted
Last edited by peteriegel

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