AMERICAN ULTRARUNNING ASSOCIATION ANNOUNCES AMERICAN ULTRARUNNING HALL OF FAME
Corbitt and Kiddy Inaugural Inductees
The American Ultrarunning Association (AUA) is pleased to announce the formation of The American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame. AUA president Kevin Setnes made the announcement April 20th, noting “A national ultrarunning Hall of Fame is long overdue. The legends of our sport will now have a place to be honored for posterity.”
Athough ultrarunning as a competitive sport has a rich and colorful history in America (going back into the mid-19th century and pre-dating organized Track & Field), its practice was scattered and not uniformly coordinated throughout the country until the late 1950’s. Hence, the pool of Hall of Fame candidates will be restricted to what is know as the “modern era” of the sport, which we date from the first know American ultramarathon organized since World War II, the New York Road Runners Club 30 Mile race held on March 8, 1958.
The AUA Hall of Fame will reflect excellence at racing beyond the standard marathon distance, or other exceptional contributions to American ultrarunning. The inaugural class of inductees will include one man and one woman. Thereafter, only a single inductee per year will be selected. Athlete candidates for the Ultra Hall must be either retired from serious competition for at least 10 years prior to their induction, or have reached the age of 60.
Achieving the distinction of being the first man and woman inducted into American Ultrarunning’s Hall of Fame are Ted Corbitt and Sandra Kiddy.
Generally regarded as “the father of American Ultrarunning,” Ted Corbitt was born in 1920. He was a sub-49 second quarter-miler at the University of Cincinnati, and began training for marathons in 1950. He had almost instant success. He won both the U.S. and Canadian national championship marathons, and was selected to the 1952 U.S. Olympic marathon team. He missed the 1956 Olympic team by one place.
At the same time, he became involved in the organization and administration of long distance running on a national scale. He was a co-founder of the Road Runners Club of America and the New York Road Runners Club, and was elected the latter organization’s first president in 1958. An African-American, as both athlete and administrator he faced and conquered many challenges posed by racial discrimination in the pre-civil rights era.
In 1958 Corbitt won that inaugural modern era American ultra, the NYRRC 30-miler, in 3:04:13. The sport grew quickly, and over the next two years he won 10 ultramarathons.
In 1960 he was elected president of the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA). Corbitt’s lobbying efforts for accurate road course measurement led to the formation of the AAU’s National Standards Committee, the precursor of the Road Running Technical Council. He was personally, “hands-on” responsible for the introduction of road course certification in America.
At that time the generally recognized de facto “World Championship” of ultrarunning was the 54-mile London-to-Brighton road race in England. In 1962 Corbitt made his first of four trips to the event. After leading for the first half of the race, he finished fourth in a performance that international ultra historian Andy Milroy claims “signaled the rebirth of North American ultrarunning.”
During the 60’s Corbitt, a full-time physical therapist with a wife and small child, became legendary for his prodigious training mileage, including long individual training runs over 60 miles and training weeks of 300 miles or more. In 1969 British track star Bruce Tulloh made international headlines by running across the United States averaging 44 miles per day with a 2-vehicle, 4-person support crew. One astute New York journalist later commented that at the very same time, Ted Corbitt came close to averaging that in training for an entire summer while maintaining a family and a full-time job!
Corbitt would finish second twice more at Brighton. One of them, his nip-and-tuck, one-minute loss to world-ranked #1 ultrarunner Bernard Gomersall, is regarded as one of the epic, classic duels in the history of the sport.
The successful promotion of a national ultrarunning program by the RRCA, following Corbitt’s leadership, resulted in the establishment in 1966 of the inaugural U.S. National 50 Mile Championship in Staten Island, New York. Corbitt finished second to Jim McDonagh in that race, but came back to win the National 50 Mile in 1968 in 5:39:45.
Corbitt finished out his world-class career with a series of track races in London, all of them when he was over the age of 50. In these races he set long-standing American track records for 50 miles, 100 miles, and 24 hours.
Although a series of injuries forced him to give up running and switch to walking in his 60’s, he never gave up being an active participant in the sport. In recent years, in his 80’s, he has covered over 68 miles in a 24-hour race and over 300 miles in a 6-day race.
Sandra Kiddy was born in 1936. She ran her first ultramarathon in 1979 at the age of 42, opening her career with a bang by notching a world best 3:36:56 for 50km. And she never looked back.
Unbeknownst to her or two particular countrywomen at the time, she, Marcy Schwam, and Sue Ellen Trapp formed an American trio who would lead women’s ultrarunning into global prominence for the first time in history. Among the three of them, they would bring women’s performance levels from 50km through 24 hours to staggering new heights, and awaken the rest of the world to the opportunity for women to achieve athletic recognition in ultramarathons on a par with men. Among them, Kiddy was the most senior in age and the most consistent.
In 1981 Kiddy ran her first 50 miler, in 6:24:19, putting her at #4 on the all-time world list with a performance that would still rank at the top of the American women’s performance charts today. In subsequent years she would drop her 50 mile best to 6:15:47, then 6:09:09, the latter at age 47, behind only Schwam on the all-time U.S. list.
In 1982 Kiddy won the Chicago Lakefront 100km, the premier American road ultra, in 7:59:59, becoming only the second woman in history (again, behind Schwam) to break 8 hours, the first on American soil.
The following year she continued her progression upward in distance and in stature, running the first of her many successful European ultras. After a tight battle with German 100km recordholder Monika Kuno, Kiddy pulled away to win a special women’s invitational “World Cup 100 Mile” in Waldniel, Germany in 15:40:50. In doing so she finally emerged from Schwam’s shadow, beating the younger American’s existing absolute world best by over 3 minutes. Later that year she lowered her 50km best to 3:32:34, taking 3rd spot on the all-time U.S. list.
Another year, another landmark: In 1984 Kiddy came within 2 minutes of Schwam’s absolute 100km World Best, running 7:49:16 to win the Edmund Fitzgerald 100km outright, catching and passing men’s winner Harry Sloan in the last 100 meters. In 1984 she also broadened her European horizons, winning the historic Two Bridges 36 miler in Scotland in course record time.
Her 100 mile World Best had lasted only a few months, and fellow American Donna Hudson now topped the century charts with her 15:31:57. This gave the 48-year old Kiddy impetus for her 1985 shining star, a 15:12:54 new World Best in Florida that would have to wait for Ann Trason, the star of a new generation, to be challenged.
In 1985 and 1986 Kiddy set Europe ablaze, winning London-to-Brighton and the Winschoten and Torhout 100kms, each of the latter two in just over 8 hours. She was right on the cutting edge of the high-profile European 100km phenomenon which would bring media attention, prize money, and national team competition to these events. Continental Europe led the way in this breakthrough, and this American woman in her late 40’s was their queen. At the end of 1986, just a week shy of her 50th birthday, she ran 7:56:21 to win the Philadelphia-to-Atlantic City 100km.
During the late 80’s Kiddy also made a token foray into the exploding new phenomenon of American trail racing, winning the Ice Age 50 Miler in Wisconsin, one of the largest and most competitive of the trail events.
Of the half-dozen 100km races Kiddy ran in her prime, all of them were major events, she was undefeated, and her average time was under 8 hours.
In 1987 Kiddy was named to the newly-formed Ultrarunning Subcommittee of TAC/USA (which later became USA Track & Field). She was instrumental in setting policies and standards for the selection of USA national championships and teams for the next 10 years.
Once into her 50’s, Kiddy became hampered by a persistent hamstring injury and seriously curtailed her racing. But she re-emerged with a 6:34:28 50 miler in 1991, which qualified her for the USA National team to the 1992 World 100km in Palamos, Spain. She became, at age 55, the most senior athlete ever named to an open USA national team, and was leading the American contingent until the last few miles in the World title race. She finished as second American scorer on the 4th placing American women’s team, running 8:42:36, a world age-group record.
Sandra Kiddy, now in her late 60’s and in retirement, still runs recreationally for an hour a day.
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