Run For Your Life
The NY Times today has a review of "Run For Your Life", a history of the beginning of the New York Marathon. Playing a major part in the tale is Fred Lebow:
Until his death from brain cancer in 1994, Fred Lebow was more than just the director of the race and the president of New York Road Runners. He was a fixture of city life, instantly recognizable for his skinny frame, neat beard and ever-present cycling cap. An immigrant from Romania (where he was born Fischl Lebowitz) with a background in the garment business, Lebow helped turn running from a solitary and eccentric pursuit into a major sport and a staple of American culture.I met Fred a couple of times at NYRRC. And I passed him-- I remember this well-- in the Westchester Half Marathon of 1982 or 1983. I couldn't understand why this guy in front of me was generating so much support and yelling from the crowd. It turned out to be Fred, who by then was famous in New York running circles. Anyway, I don't remember what we said to each other as I went past him. I do remember that I ran the half marathon in 1:24 that day, and was thrilled by setting a new PR. I was also thankful that Fred had managed to make the sport so accessible and so much fun. He was the best, most famous 8 minute per mile pace runner in the history of the sport.
He did this with a mixture of showmanship, quasi-evangelical zeal and entrepreneurial hustle. Using on-camera interviews with friends and colleagues, and archival film and video clips, “Run for Your Life,” directed by Judd Ehrlich, is mainly an affectionate portrait of the man, whose every foible and virtue is noted with fond tolerance.