1990 was my second attempt at a comeback to running and the New York City Marathon.
And in addition to training, and racing, one of the things that I did was to attend the now legendary NYRR Running Class programs held by Bob Glover, author of the Runner’s Handbook, the Competitive Runner’s Handbook, and the Injured Runner’s Training Handbook. He still teaches these classes today, with the help of Shelly Glover. However, back in the day, it was none other than Fred Lebow himself who stood side by side with the instructor. but with the help of his It was near the Road Runner’s Club in an auditorium of a school.
Classes were held at P.S. 6, located on East 81st Street between Park and Madison Avenues. The instruction was informative, but for me it was no eye opener. Having read all of his books took away much of his lesson plan. Still, it was a good reinforcement to hear him preach what he had written. And that was only second fiddle, to seeing Fred Lebow go there from time to time.
I only went to one class, but it was extremely memorable but heartbreaking as well.
Fred approached the microphone, and started talking about something that none of us had any idea about. He had mentioned about this “annoying thing” he had been diagnosed with, but was confident that he would beat it. As it later turned out, that annoying thing was lymphoma of the brain, for lack of better words, brain cancer. Fred Lebow always spoke with a lot of hope. He was probably the type of guy who could lie to you over and over again, and you would never pick it up, because he was so genuine, and so full of positivity that you would believe every word. Something had compelled me to thank him for knowing what the NYC Marathon had done for my life. Not knowing whether or not, I would ever see Fred Lebow, totally cemented the need to at least shake his hand.
When the class had ended, and as most people where walking out through the exit doors in the back, I went in the other direction and walked up to Fred. He seemed tall to me, and was definitely a very lanky fellow, with sharp discerning eyes.
I spoke up as I walked towards him and got his attention,
“I just wanted to thank you for everything that you have done for me. Giving me the opportunity to run my first ever marathon, the New York City Marathon 6 years ago in 1984, had turned my life around. It’s still the greatest thing that has ever happened to me, and I just wanted to share my gratefulness to you.”
I kinda felt guilty about saying this, because my daughter had been born just the previous summer (1989). However, running came to me while in the midst of one of the lowest points in my life (like it did again in 2004…wow). The problems I was having at home were nothing compared to my situation at school. And the school problems, paled in comparison, to what was really the overarching problem in my life. And that was a massive heartbreak. It was over a girl, named Patr.icia Lang. I had met her the first day I started working in McDonald’s. I’ll save the details to prevent derailing this story, but in short, I fell in complete love with her. In retrospect, I always think how different life would have been for both of us, had she taken took full advantage of it instead of opting instead to do nothing about it. Even to this day, she would have been the happiest woman in the planet. Oh well, that’s both our loss.
Fred extended his hand, grasped mine, and firmly shook it.
“Thank you,” he said, then added,
“It’s people like you that make me want to do this every year.”
Then he beamed a great smile, and waited for me to stop shaking his hand.
This was actually the fourth time I ever knowingly came in contact with Lebow. The other three times was when I crossed the New York City Marathon. I’m not sure about 1986, but I do remember seeing him there for my first and second finishes in 84’ and 85’. I guess just like we believed in Fred., he completely believed in us. That unusually cool night in August was the only time that we spoke face to face however. And even for that short period of time that I connected, he felt…fatherly.
Leaving that moment of nostalgia for a second, I now look upon Mary Wittenberg, the current President of the NYRRs club. Mary has been doing a terrific job thus far in running the “empire”, but it was Fred who built that empire. He did so from the ground up. He was a modern-day architect in marketing the sport. A legend in his time, for all time.
And now for a completely senseless picture:
This is of my father in 1990. I was not with him at the time. Apparently he did not look to happy. After all this running talk, I figured this would knock the readers off their feet.
Well? Did it?
I eagerly await all your solicited and unsolicited, sweet, salty and or salacious replies....