Runner’s legacy could endure on street sign
By Adam Wisnieski
When Ted Corbitt would leave Building 9 of the Marble Hill Houses to go on his daily training run, people didn’t think much of it.
One neighbor, Tom Lockhart, said he remembers watching him stride by.
“Gary’s dad” was trying to keep in shape, he thought.
But Mr. Corbitt was doing more than just staying fit. Mr. Corbitt, who lived in Marble Hill for more than 50 years before his death in 2007, was fathering American distance running.
Though he led an unassuming life at the Marble Hill Houses and later at the Promenade with his wife Ruth, he’s credited with not only breaking down barriers of race in American sports but also with changing views the world over about what it means to be a long-distance runner.
His training run was no jaunt to Van Cortlandt Park. It was a lap of Manhattan, about 31 miles.
When Ted Corbitt commuted to work from Marble Hill to East 24th Street in Manhattan, he would take the long way. He would run up to McClean Avenue in Yonkers, wind back into the Bronx and run along the Grand Concourse to the Madison Avenue or Third Avenue Bridge to make his way through Manhattan to his job as chief physical therapist at the International Center for the Disabled, according to his son.
The commute was 20 or 30 miles — 400 to 600 blocks — depending on the route he chose, and would contribute to weeks that he would log 200 running miles.
Now a group of Marble Hill residents, members of the city’s running community, as well as Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, are trying to get one block — West 228th Street near Broadway, right next to the Marble Hill Houses’ Building 9 — named for the running legend.
Mr. Corbitt was born in Dunbarton, S.C. on a cotton farm. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinatti, though he was not allowed to compete because he was black. He then served in the United States Army and later and moved to New York. He earned a master’s degree in physical therapy from New York University in 1950 and in 1995, he moved into the Marble Hill Houses.