By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer
Last Saturday, the newly established National Distance Running Hall of Fame inducted its first class.
The induction ceremony took place at Hamilton College, and honored running legends Ted Corbitt, Bill Rodgers, Frank Shorter, Joan Benoit Samuelson and Katherine Switzer. The National Distance Running Hall of Fame is at 114 Genesee St. in Utica, the site of the nation's largest 15k road race, the Boilermaker.
The organizers of the Boilermaker were a driving force behind the creation of the Hall of Fame. Hence, the induction ceremony took place on the eve of the Boilermaker race.
The five inaugural inductees were elected by representatives of the distance-running community, including race directors and officials from the Road Runners Club of America and the Hall of Fame. These inductees will become part of a panel that will select future inductees into the Hall of Fame.
The election of Corbitt, Rodgers, Shorter, Benoit Samuelson and Switzer into the Hall of Fame highlighted the achievements of American marathon runners of the second half of this century.
THEODORE (Ted) CORBITT is widely recognized as the father of American distance running. He started his competitive running career in 1947 with the New York Pioneers Club, while working full time as a physical therapist. He won many marathons in the 1950s, and represented the United States in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki.
In 1958, he became the first president of the New York Association of the Road Runners Club, which became later the New York Road Runners Club. In the early 1960s, he revived ultra-marathon running in the country, and set American records in the marathon, 50-mile, 100-mile and 24-hour runs.
BILL RODGERS is the only man to win the Boston Marathon four times and the New York City Marathon four times. All eight victories occurred between 1975 and 1980, and earned him three times the world's number one ranking in the marathon by Track and Field News.
Rodgers also represented the United States at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. A graduate in sociology from Wesleyan College and special education from Boston College, "Boston Billy" continues to live and run in Boston. A fierce masters competitor, Rodgers holds five American records and one world record.
JOAN BENOIT SAMUELSON won the gold medal in the first women's Olympic marathon, in Los Angeles in 1984. Benoit captured the hearts of Americans by winning the Olympic trials in the marathon only two weeks after knee surgery.
A graduate of Bowdoin College in Maine, she won the Boston Marathon twice, in 1979 and 1983. Her 1985 victory at the Chicago Marathon in 2 hours, 21 minutes and 21 seconds set a world record, and remains the American record. Samuelson recently turned 40 and continues to compete as a master runner.
FRANK SHORTER is best known for winning the gold medal in the 1972 Olympic marathon in Munich and the silver medal in the 1976 Olympic marathon in Montreal.
Shorter won the U.S. 10,000-meter championship five times, the U.S. cross-country championship four times and the Fukuoka Marathon in Japan four times.
Shorter earned a law degree from the University of Florida. He lives in Boulder, Colorado, where he continues an active involvement with running through television commentary of major events as well as masters competition.
In 1967, KATHERINE SWITZER became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon wearing an official number. A student at Syracuse University majoring in public communication, Switzer transformed that defining moment in Boston into a movement for women's running.
Locally, she started the Syracuse Chargers Track Club. After her graduation, she won the New York City Marathon in 1974, and created the Avon Running Program. Switzer's activities on behalf of women's running may have been the driving force behind including the women's marathon in 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games.
The biographies of Ted Corbitt, Bill Rodgers, Joan Benoit Samuelson and Frank Shorter are available at the Ed Stabler Syracuse Chargers Running Collection at the Syracuse University Library. Switzer has only recently started writing her autobiography, which we await eagerly.
Kamal Jabbour is privileged to have met these legends of American distance running. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains The Syracuse Running Page and receives email at email@example.com.