NYC Parks Department Names 6-Mile Central Park Loop for Storied Black Olympian Runner, Ted Corbitt




Credit: Daniel Avila/NYC Parks

NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, last week joined New York City Council Member Peter Koo, Central Park Conservancy President Elizabeth W. Smith, New York Road Runners Chairman George Hirsch and Vice President of Events Ted Metellus, USATF Road Running Technical Council Chairperson David Katz, friends of the Corbitt Family, and running groups and runners from across the city to celebrate the naming of the Central Park loop in honor of the first African American Olympian Ted Corbitt, who was a pioneer in long distance running and ran in the first New York City Marathon wearing the “No. 1” bib. To commemorate the naming, Parks will install six scenic landmark street signs donning ‘Ted Corbitt Loop’ along the 6-mile route, and a Parks branded routed sign at the base of Harlem Hill at 110th St. and Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. in Harlem. 

NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver. Credit: Daniel Avila/NYC Parks

“As an avid runner, I am incredibly proud to commemorate the contributions of a man that inspired me and countless others to push through boundaries and live more abundantly,” said Commissioner Silver. “It is an honor to celebrate Black History Month this year by shining light on Ted Corbitt’s influence and advocacy for underrepresented groups in running and beyond. May his legacy and pioneering spirit live on to inspire the next generation of runners to strive for greatness, progress, and peace.”

“My father and other men and women volunteers worked tireless hours to help invent the modern day sport of long distance running,” said Corbitt’s son Gary Corbitt. “Many of the innovations in the sport were started in New York during the 1960s and early 1970s. This naming tribute celebrates all these pioneers.”

“This is a fitting honor for Ted, who made a home for runners in Central Park,” said Elizabeth W. Smith, President & CEO of Central Park Conservancy.  “He saw in the Park, the promise for running to build a community as diverse as the City itself.”

“Among his many contributions, Ted Corbitt was our trusted and dedicated leader. I became a runner back in the late 1960’s when there were not many of us runners. We were an offbeat group and Ted Corbitt was our leader. Not because he wanted to be or ever sought attention, but because of his passion to make a positive impact, as well as being a champion, Olympian, and a student of the sport. We always looked to Ted to see what he was he doing. And then, we did it as well,” said George Hirsch, Chairman of the Board, NYRR.

Elizabeth W. Smith, President & CEO, Central Park Conservancy. Credit: Daniel Avila/NYC Parks

“Today is a fitting tribute and we are proud to be part of NYC Parks, Central Park Conservancy, and the City of New York’s recognition of pioneering force Ted Corbitt. As an African American man, and alongside an African American NYC Parks Commissioner, this recognition is monumental,” said Ted Metellus, Vice President of Events, NYRR. “Ted’s lasting legacy continues to inspire and impact generations every day, every runner, and every single step taken in this park.”

“In 2006, my grandson Christopher, who was a three-year-old toddler at the time, ran in a NY Road Runners’ youth marathon here in Central Park.  I was so proud of him as he focused his little self and ran in earnest. He was so adorable.  Little did I know that we were standing on the phenomenally broad shoulders of Mr. Ted Corbitt, the ‘father of long distance running’,” said Community Board 10 Parks Committee Chair Karen Horry. “On behalf of Manhattan Community Board 10, I would like to extend sincere gratitude and congratulations to the Corbitt  family, the New York Road Runners and marathon runners around the world on this auspicious occasion, as NYC Parks, under the leadership of Commissioner Silver, commemorates the longest loop in Central Park to the astounding legacy of Ted Corbitt.”

Ted Corbitt running in the 54-mile London to Brighton race in 1962. Image

Born in South Carolina, Theodore ‘Ted’ Corbitt was an ultramarathon pioneer, author, and physiotherapist. Throughout his illustrious 50-year career, he ran 199 marathons and ultramarathons’, which are typically races of 50 or 100 miles or 24 hours. In 1952, Corbitt became the first Black American to represent the United States at the Olympic Marathon which was held in Helsinki, Finland. He was the founding President of New York Road Runners, a member of the inaugural class of inductees into the National Distance Running Hall of Fame in Utica, and a pioneer of race course measurement. Corbitt is noted to have run up to 312.5 miles a week and is widely credited as a source of inspiration to runners around the world.

Corbitt will join Mayor John Lindsay, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux who have roads in Central Park named for them. Most recently, the lower loop was named John V. Lindsay Dr. in 2013, and the 72nd Street Cross Drive, that runs past Bethesda Terrace, was named Olmsted Vaux Way in 2008. Ted Corbitt Loop encompasses the 6 miles he and runners world-wide have run for more than a century.

NYC Parks is committed to supporting the fight to end systematic racism locally, nationally, and throughout the world. In June 2020, the agency declared solidarity with the Black community when it created Juneteenth Grove in Brooklyn’s Cadman Plaza Park. In addition, on Black Solidarity Day 2020, Parks also announced the first tranche of namings for prominent Black Americans in an effort to foster effective and equitable changes within the City’s parks system. In preparation for the second phase of namings, New Yorkers now have an opportunity to submit name recommendations to further highlight the Black experience in New York City. For more details and to submit suggestions, please visit our website. Parks will accept suggestions for the next two weeks. Those interested in submitting names of other protected class peoples can do so as well–for later consideration.