Boilermaker Blog

See Mary Run

The Mary that I am speaking of is Mary Wittenberg and what she is running is the New York Road Runners, the premier running club in New York City (and perhaps the world). The N.Y. Road Runners will host a small affair on November 4th called the ING New York City Marathon that will have nearly 50,000 participants.
On October 14th The New York Times ran an interesting spread on Mary specifically and about racing in general.
By every measure the N.Y. Road Runners are big- how big you ask?
Big budget- $59,000,000
Big staff- 150 (up from 60 when Mary became CEO in 2005)
Big names- Celebrities who have run the marathon include Jennifer Aniston, P. Ditty, Ed Norton, and Oprah.
Charitable giving is up, applications are up (150,000 applied for this year’s marathon), one would think that all is well with the kingdom; but that is not necessarily the case.
Mary has had her detractors and some of those criticisms speak to the greater problems of road racing throughout the U.S..
Due to the rapid growth of the sport races are selling out faster and faster leaving many long-time runners shut out- it makes them unhappy (sometimes very, very unhappy). The Boilermaker sold out in roughly 100 days in 2011, we added 1,000 runners this year and the number dwindled to 65 days. I expect the 2013 Boilermaker to sell out faster than this year regardless of what cap number is set.
Race Directors try to expand the field as much as possible to get in more participants while (hopefully) preserving the essential appeal of the event. In 2005, Mary’s first year, the field was 37,000, now many complain the field is simply too large to run a great time. There were some preliminary discussions between the Road Runners and the City of New York to conduct the marathon both Saturday and Sunday theoretically doubling the field size. While I have no idea where this went I wonder if Mayor Bloomberg would allow the streets of New York to be shut down on two consecutive days?
Then there is the question of escalating race fees, over the last eight years cost for Road Runners members to run the 26.2 mile race has escalated from $80 to $216- its $255 for non-members. Some of the increase is due to paying for police/ traffic control and some to support charitable outreach such as youth running and obesity.
So it is a delicate, delicate balancing act that will, unfortunately, leave some angry.
Ms. Wittenberg is clearly a visionary with a focus of expanding the reach of the Road Runners far beyond where Fred Lebow, the founder of the marathon, began. In 1970, the race’s inaugural year when it was simply run in Central Park, there were only 127 runners.
The question becomes does the general running public see the vision the same way?
Time will tell.
BTW- Mary nor only runs the N.Y. Road Runners but is a pretty good runner in her own right; in 1987 she qualified for the Olympic Trials after winning the Marine Corps Marathon in 2 hours 44 minutes.
Finally, good luck to all our local athletes that will be running in a couple weeks- have and run a great time!

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