Celebrating the life and legacy of Ted Corbitt

In today's episode, Coach Jessica Marie Rose speaks with running historian Gary Corbitt. Gary is the son of long-distance running legend Ted Corbitt. Gary provides a wealth of information on the impact his father's career had on the running world and physical therapy, and the civil rights movement. 

Ted Corbitt: Running ahead of his time

For those who missed the memo and lived under a rock, Ted Corbitt is considered the father of long-distance running in The United States. Ted Corbitt held US distance records for 25 miles during his running career, the marathon, 40 miles, 50 miles, and 100 miles. Not only was he the first African American to represent the USA at the Olympics, but he also was a trailblazer in the disciple of ultra-running. Renowned for running over 200 miles a week, he ran an estimated 200,000 miles in his lifetime. 

Corbitt's extensive running accolades awards: https://tedcorbitt.com/ted-corbitt-record/

Influence on Running Clubs and the civil rights movement

Ted Corbitt joined the New York Pioneer Club in 1947. The New York Pioneers Club, founded in 1936 in Harlem, became the first all African American club. The Pioneer Club used running to promote education, civic values, and better race relations. To this end, in 1942, the club began to welcome all races, resulting in the first large-scale integrated sports club in the US. 

'He would give lectures before workouts and used athletics to build people of character. It's not just a running story; it's a civil rights story."

Ted Corbitt co-founded the New York Road Runners Club in 1958 and served as the club's first president. Ted Corbitt's legacy as a founding president led the New York Road Runners to develop its inclusion agenda. An agenda that embraces and encourages all runners no matter race, speed, or creed. 

From its humble beginnings, the club now has a membership of over 60,000 runners and serves 695,000 runners annually. Additionally, the New York Road Runners continue to focus on empowering young people through sport and has raised over $350 million for charities since 2006. 

Ted Corbitt was involved in the planning of The New York City Marathon, which has become the club's flagship event and is renowned for its inclusive approach. It's safe to say, Corbitt's vision set long-distance running on a trajectory of inclusion that impacted the formation of rights-based run clubs around the country. 

For the history buffs: The New York Road Runners are currently celebrating Black History Month and are compiling historical resources on Ted Corbitt and other black pioneers'. For those who prefer videos, here is a New York Road Runners tribute video

Innovating physical therapy methods for long-distance runners

Many runners may not be aware of the impact that Ted Corbitt had on physical therapy for long-distance running. After serving in the army in WWII, Corbitt studied physical therapy at New York University, becoming one of the first African Americans to enter the profession. 

Ted Corbitt traveled the world to learn from leaders in their respective disciplines to develop his holistic physical therapy approach. Consequently, he was one of the first physical therapists to study, teach and practice connected tissue massage, deep muscle therapy, Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) progressive resistance exercises, and applied kinesiology. 

'I could easily make the argument that his contributions in physical therapy far exceed his running career. He was light years ahead of the field in terms of using weight training for runners'

He took a scholarly approach to physical therapy, a profession that he practiced for over 40 years. He taught and trained generations of physical therapists, which has profoundly innovated practices that continue to support runners to run injury free today. 


1:30 Gary Corbitt introduction and biography

5:31­– Ted Corbitt's training and career in physical therapy

8:00 – New York Road Runners

13:33 – New York Pioneer Club

24:54 – Introducing resistance training for long-distance runners

  • Ted Corbitt was a pioneer of long-distance running in the US, and his wake ushered in the rise in popularity of long-distance running
  • He used his position in the New York City Road Runners Club to create an inclusive philosophy that contributed to the goals of the civil rights movement and has empowered countless young people and communities
  • He was a master clinician, innovator, and educator in the field of physical therapy whose work continues to inform contemporary practices
  • He was flipping badass running 200+ miles a week while also working!

Marathon Training Summit: MarathonTrainingSummit.com

Get an Assessment with Jessica: https://www.runpainfreenow.com

Ted Corbitt tribute website: https://tedcorbitt.com/

New York City Road Runners: https://www.nyrr.org/

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Keep running, and keep learning! 

Jessica Marie Rose Leggio


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