11 Fast Facts About the New York City Marathon

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Thousands of runners will converge on New York City to race the New York City Marathon on November 4, 2018. Here’s everything you need to know about Gotham’s most iconic road race.

1. THE RACE'S MASTERMIND JUST WANTED TO IMPROVE HIS TENNIS GAME.

When Fred Lebow first laced up his shoes, he didn’t set out to help turn distance running into a national craze. He just wanted to up his stamina when he played tennis. He fell in love with running, though, and in 1970 he organized a marathon in Central Park. With a total budget of $1000—$300 of which came out of Lebow’s own pocket—Lebow gathered a small pack of runners to pound 26.2 miles’ worth of loops in the park on September 13, 1970.

2. THAT FIRST GROUP STRUGGLED A BIT.

Lebow’s first race featured a field of 127 runners, but only 55 of them managed to complete the course. Gary Muhrcke won the first race with a time of 2:31:39. Muhrcke’s feat is all the more impressive because he had worked the previous night as a firefighter in Far Rockaway, Queens. In 2009 he told Runner’s World that he was tired and nearly bagged the race entirely: “I had called my wife at about 8:30 in the morning and said, ‘You know, I don't really want to go [to Central Park], I think I'm going to come home and take it easy.’ I don't want to run a marathon on September 13 [with] 85 degrees possible. I heard a disappointment in her voice, because we had three little children. I said, ‘Alright, we'll go, let's go, pick me up, we'll go.’"

3. ONLY ONE WOMAN COMPETED IN THE FIRST EVENT.

The vast majority of those first 127 runners were men. In fact, there was only one woman in the race! She became ill during the run and never crossed the finish line.

4. A REVOLUTION BEGAN TWO YEARS LATER.


By Steven Pisano - Flickr, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Why were there so few women in that first race? Blame running’s old governing body, the Amateur Athletic Union. The AAU had long banned women from running marathons; Runner’s World noted that part of the justification for this ban came from junk science that indicated female distance runners were prone to infertility. In 1971, the AAU agree to allow women to run the distance if their race start was staggered 10 minutes away from the men’s race or from a different line.

The plan for the 1972 race was to have the six women in the field take off from the starting line 10 minutes before their male counterparts. However, when the women’s gun sounded, instead of taking off, the six runners—led by Boston Marathon champ Nina Kuscsik—sat down on the starting line. For 10 minutes, they held signs jeering the AAU with slogans like “Hey AAU, this is 1972. Wake up.”

When the gun sounded for the men’s race to begin, the women got up and ran. The protest cost them a 10-minute penalty, but it was a major victory in women’s effort to run the same races as men and changed running forever. Last year, more than 21,000 women finished the New York City Marathon.

5. THE RACE VENTURED OUT OF CENTRAL PARK IN 1976.

The United States celebrated its bicentennial in 1976, and everyone was looking for a way to ride the national wave of patriotic sentiment, including local runner George Spitz. Spitz thought that taking the race out of its looping course in Central Park and running it through all five of the city’s boroughs would be a great way to harness some local pride. He had run the Boston Marathon, and he reportedly asked his friends, “If Boston can have a marathon on the city roads, why not New York?”

Spitz doggedly worked to get the support of Mayor Abraham D. Beame and raised the funds necessary to close down the streets. That first cross-city race was a smashing success, and the course has passed through all five boroughs ever since.

6. IT'S GOTTEN QUITE A BIT MORE EXPENSIVE.


Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The entry fee for the 1970 marathon was just $1. It’s safe to say the price has outpaced inflation in the last several decades. U.S. residents running in the 2018 marathon paid an entry fee of $295 apiece, while non-residents paid $358.

7. THE SPOILS HAVE GOTTEN BETTER, TOO.

When your entry fee is just a buck, you can’t afford to be too lavish with the race prizes. According to race organizers, the top runners in 1970 received “inexpensive wristwatches and recycled baseball and bowling trophies.” It’s gotten a little richer since then. For this year’s race, the total prize purse is $825,000, with the fastest man and woman running away with $100,000 apiece.

8. WHEELCHAIR RACERS GOT THEIR OWN DIVISION IN 2000.


Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The 2000 race marked the first year that wheelchair racers had their own formal, competitive division following 20 years of racing as an exhibition event. That first formal race went to Kamel Ayari in a time of 1:53:50, and the division has only gotten faster since then. The current course record belongs to Australian Kurt Fearnley, who roared through all five boroughs in 1:29:22 in 2007.

9. THE FIELD HAS GROWN OVER THE YEARS.

Lebow only found 127 runners for the 1970 race, but the 2017 edition of the marathon will include more than 50,000 racers.

10. RUNNERS RAISE A SERIOUS PILE OF MONEY FOR CHARITY.


Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Many runners are doing more than just getting in a good workout—they’re also raising money for a good cause. One of these charities is named for Lebow, who passed away in 1994 following a fight with cancer. Since 1995, the charity that bears his name, Fred’s Team, has raised more than $70 million for New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

11. THE RACE HAS ONLY BEEN CANCELED ONCE.

Since 1970, the only marathon that didn’t go off as planned was the 2012 running. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg initially insisted that the race would go on as planned before pressure from other local leaders led him to cancel the marathon. Some disappointed runners gathered in Central Park to run their own unsanctioned race, while others volunteered to visit hard-hit Staten Island to lend a hand to recovery efforts.

6 Facts About International Women's Day

iStock.com/robeo
iStock.com/robeo

For more than 100 years, March 8th has marked what has come to be known as International Women's Day in countries around the world. While its purpose differs from place to place—in some countries it’s a day of protest, in others it’s a way to celebrate the accomplishments of women and promote gender equality—the holiday is more than just a simple hashtag. Ahead of this year’s celebration, let’s take a moment to explore the day’s origins and traditions.

1. International Women's Day originated more than 100 years ago.

On February 28, 1909, the now-dissolved Socialist Party of America organized the first National Woman’s Day, which took place on the last Sunday in February. In 1910, Clara Zetkin—the leader of Germany’s 'Women's Office' for the Social Democratic Party—proposed the idea of a global International Women’s Day, so that people around the world could celebrate at the same time. On March 19, 1911, the first International Women’s Day was held; more than 1 million people in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Denmark took part.

2. The celebration got women the vote in Russia.

In 1917, women in Russia honored the day by beginning a strike for “bread and peace” as a way to protest World War I and advocate for gender parity. Czar Nicholas II, the country’s leader at the time, was not impressed and instructed General Khabalov of the Petrograd Military District to put an end to the protests—and to shoot any woman who refused to stand down. But the women wouldn't be intimidated and continued their protests, which led the Czar to abdicate just days later. The provisional government then granted women in Russia the right to vote.

3. The United Nations officially adopted International Women's Day in 1975.

In 1975, the United Nations—which had dubbed the year International Women’s Year—celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8th for the first time. Since then, the UN has become the primary sponsor of the annual event and has encouraged even more countries around the world to embrace the holiday and its goal of celebrating “acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.”

4. International Women's Day is an official holiday in dozens of countries.

International Women’s Day is a day of celebration around the world, and an official holiday in dozens of countries. Afghanistan, Cuba, Vietnam, Uganda, Mongolia, Georgia, Laos, Cambodia, Armenia, Belarus, Montenegro, Russia, and Ukraine are just some of the places where March 8th is recognized as an official holiday.

5. It’s a combined celebration with Mother’s Day in several places.

In the same way that Mother’s Day doubles as a sort of women’s appreciation day, the two holidays are combined in some countries, including Serbia, Albania, Macedonia, and Uzbekistan. On this day, children present their mothers and grandmothers with small gifts and tokens of love and appreciation.

6. Each year's festivities have an official theme.

In 1996, the UN created a theme for that year’s International Women’s Day: Celebrating the Past, Planning for the Future. In 1997, it was “Women at the Peace Table,” then “Women and Human Rights” in 1998. They’ve continued this themed tradition in the years since; for 2019, it's “Better the balance, better the world” or #BalanceforBetter.

8 Enlightening Facts About Dr. Ruth Westheimer

Rachel Murray, Getty Images for Hulu
Rachel Murray, Getty Images for Hulu

For decades, sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer has used television, radio, the written word, and the internet to speak frankly on topics relating to human sexuality, turning what were once controversial topics into healthy, everyday conversations.

At age 90, Westheimer shows no signs of slowing down. As a new documentary, Ask Dr. Ruth, gears up for release on Hulu this spring, we thought we’d take a look at Westheimer’s colorful history as an advisor, author, and resistance sniper.

1. The Nazis devastated her childhood.

Dr. Ruth was born Karola Ruth Siegel on June 4, 1928 in Wiesenfeld, Germany, the only child of Julius and Irma Siegel. When Ruth was just five years old, the advancing Nazi party terrorized her neighborhood and seized her father in 1938, presumably to shuttle him to a concentration camp. One year later, Karola—who eventually began using her middle name and took on the last name Westheimer with her second marriage in 1961—was sent to a school in Switzerland for her own protection. She later learned that her parents had both been killed during the Holocaust, possibly at Auschwitz.

2. She shocked classmates with her knowledge of taboo topics.

Westheimer has never been bashful about the workings of human sexuality. While working as a maid at an all-girls school in Switzerland, she made classmates and teachers gasp with her frank talk about menstruation and other topics that were rarely spoken of in casual terms.

3. She trained as a sniper for Jewish resistance fighters in Palestine.

Following the end of World War II, Westheimer left Switzerland for Israel, and later Palestine. She became a Zionist and joined the Haganah, an underground network of Jewish resistance fighters. Westheimer carried a weapon and trained as both a scout and sniper, learning how to throw hand grenades and shoot firearms. Though she never saw direct action, the tension and skirmishes could lapse into violence, and in 1948, Westheimer suffered a serious injury to her foot owing to a bomb blast. The injury convinced her to move into the comparatively less dangerous field of academia.

4. A lecture ignited her career.

 Dr. Ruth Westheimer participates in the annual Charity Day hosted by Cantor Fitzgerald and BGC at Cantor Fitzgerald on September 11, 2015 in New York City.
Robin Marchant, Getty Images for Cantor Fitzgerald

In 1950, Westheimer married an Israeli soldier and the two relocated to Paris, where she studied psychology at the Sorbonne. Though the couple divorced in 1955, Westheimer's education continued into 1959, when she graduated with a master’s degree in sociology from the New School in New York City. (She received a doctorate in education from Columbia University in 1970.) After meeting and marrying Manfred Westheimer, a Jewish refugee, in 1961, Westheimer became an American citizen.

By the late 1960s, she was working at Planned Parenthood, where she excelled at having honest conversations about uncomfortable topics. Eventually, Westheimer found herself giving a lecture to New York-area broadcasters about airing programming with information about safe sex. Radio station WYNY offered her a show, Sexually Speaking, that soon blossomed into a hit, going from 15 minutes to two hours weekly. By 1983, 250,000 people were listening to Westheimer talk about contraception and intimacy.

5. People told her to lose her accent.

Westheimer’s distinctive accent has led some to declare her “Grandma Freud.” But early on, she was given advice to take speech lessons and make an effort to lose her accent. Westheimer declined, and considers herself fortunate to have done so. “It helped me greatly, because when people turned on the radio, they knew it was me,” she told the Harvard Business Review in 2016.

6. She’s not concerned about her height, either.

In addition to her voice, Westheimer became easily recognizable due to her diminutive stature. (She’s four feet, seven inches tall.) When she was younger, Westheimer worried her height might not be appealing. Later, she realized it was an asset. “On the contrary, I was lucky to be so small, because when I was studying at the Sorbonne, there was very little space in the auditoriums and I could always find a good-looking guy to put me up on a windowsill,” she told the HBR.

7. She advises people not to take huge penises seriously.

Westheimer doesn’t frown upon pornography; in 2018, she told the Times of Israel that viewers can “learn something from it.” But she does note the importance of separating fantasy from reality. “People have to use their own judgment in knowing that in any of the sexually explicit movies, the genitalia that is shown—how should I say this? No regular person is endowed like that.”

8. She lectures on cruise ships.

Westheimer uses every available medium—radio, television, the internet, and even graphic novels—to share her thoughts and advice about human sexuality. Sometimes, that means going out to sea. The therapist books cruise ship appearances where she offers presentations to guests on how best to manage their sex lives. Westheimer often insists the crew participate and will regularly request that the captain read some of the questions.

“The last time, the captain was British, very tall, and had to say ‘orgasm’ and ‘erection,’” she told The New York Times in 2018. “Never did they think they would hear the captain talk about the things we were talking about.” Of course, that’s long been Westheimer’s objective—to make the taboo seem tame.

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