Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Sun, 27 Nov 2005 08:22:11 -0500

Beyond Running

RUNNING COMMENTARY 599

Ted Corbitt was runner ahead of his time, and for a long time. One of first African-Americans to excel on the roads, he made the 1952 Olympic marathon team. He graduated to even longer distances and is now known as the father of U.S. ultrarunning.

Even in his glory years as a runner, Ted walked a lot. He said recently that mixing the two goes back to his training as a college runner in Cincinnati more than 60 years ago.

"I walked 14 miles two or three times, a week apart, then 28 miles once or twice to get ready for the cross-country season," he recalled. "Then I switched to running only. Walking toughens the body and adds endurance to the legs."

He had a more practical reason for walking. "My mother repeatedly urged me to walk to tracks and parks for training," he said, "to avoid the possibility of getting shot by a policeman on the streets."

He wasn't joking. Anyone who ran the streets back then, and especially one looking like young Ted, was suspected of having done wrong.

Ted has spent his adult life in New York City. There he lost his fear of the streets, regularly running to work and back, and often taking a lap or two around Manhattan Island.

Suddenly, in 1974, a runner's worst fear came true for him. He couldn't run anymore. Asthma stopped him.

Instead of retiring into living on what-used-to-be's, he turned to what he could still do: walk. This wasn't just strolling in Central Park or down Fifth Avenue.

Ted told me for a 2001 article, "Since I stopped running, I sometimes walk around Manhattan Island, which is 31-plus miles by the route I take. In fact I had planned to walk it the day of the [September 11th] terrorist attacks -- and would have passed the site of the World Trade Center after its collapse."

That summer he had walked better than 50 miles daily in a six-day race named for him. This had come in his 83rd year.

Now almost 87, Ted writes, "I am still active, but I am experiencing a number of health happenings that come if you hang around this long." He says, "I only walk between four and 10 miles most days."

That plus, "I weight-train once or twice a week." And, "I do some part-time work as a physical therapist."

My 2001 article on Ted Corbitt ended with this line: "He remains a beacon for aging actively." He shines even brighter four years later.

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