Thursday, June 21, 2018

V8 N. 38 Ted Corbitt as Remembered by Denis Fikes

This post was taken from Gary Corbitt's Facebook page with correspondence from Denis Fikes about Gary's father, Ted Corbitt. 



In case you missed this post by Denis about his New York visit June 6th, I’ve posted again below.
Denis – I thank you for attending the bust unveiling ceremony. Your presence added to a great evening honoring my father. I never saw you run in person for the University of Penn, but your outstanding years at Rice High School are quite memorable. Dominating, majestic, running royalty are terms that come to mind. Your groundbreaking achievements are an example of what motivates me towards preserving this great history of our sport. Firstly we need to be made aware of our history-makers, and once we have the facts; stories can be documented and handed down to future generations.
FB Followers: Denis is part of the African American Running History timeline (1880 – 1979) that I’ve developed.
April 27, 1974 - Denis Elton Cochran Fikes
Denis Fikes representing the University of Penn runs a 3:55.0 mile in the 1974 Penn Relays’ to place second to Tony Waldrop in the Ben Franklin Mile. This performance was the fastest mile ever by an African American. He would hold the distinction of being the fastest African American miler ever for an amazeing 18 years.
At Penn, Denis Fikes recorded over 25 school records in the middle distance events from 1,000 meters to three-miles. He won seven Heptagonal titles and one IC4A title. He was a six-time All-Eastern honoree and a two-time All-American.
Here’s the post from Denis:
Yesterday I was surrounded by people and places that inspire me. It was Global Running Day. I started the day having breakfast with my mother, Ella Fikes Dufau, who was and continues to be my biggest fan and supporter. I then had a too short visit with my only remaining aunt, Dina Joyner, she now lives in a nursing home in Harlem and is as loving and caring as she ever was. It was a joy to spend time with her. Upon returning to my mother’s place, we had a wonderful afternoon of talking and visiting with her friends at the Lehman Senior Center. Then, I was off to the New York Road Runners’ (NYRR) Running Center via a walk through Central Park, which was where I ran many of my morning workouts with my brother, Don Welton Fikes as well as my Rice teammate, Norman Dufford before school.
This year marks the 60th Anniversary of the NYRR. Among the many events surrounding this milestone and Global Running Day, and the reason for my going to the NYRR Running Center was to witness the unveiling of the bust of Ted Corbitt.
“The Father of Long Distance Running”
A distance running pioneer and the co-founder and first president of NYRR, Ted Corbitt had a unique dedication to the sport and a passion for excellence that carried over into every aspect of his life. He completed an incredible lifetime total of 223 marathons and ultramarathons. His training, which routinely included 200-mile weeks, was more than just preparation for racing. It was a lifestyle that has inspired many who came after him.
For me, as a young black distance runner in the late 60’s there were very few Black-American’s I could look to for inspiration. It wasn’t until late in my high school career that I first learned of Ted Corbitt but it was years later that I came to better know and appreciate what he gave to distance running and in particular, what he gave to Black Men in America. As I sat in my chair awaiting the unveiling of Ted’s bust, I was struck by the number of black men in attendance. I still have vivid memories of starting cross country races at Van Cortlandt Park my freshman year at Rice, races that had up to 200 or more runners and not seeing anyone on the starting line that looked like me. I was proud to see that we were so well represented and I wondered what Ted would think of Black Men Run, an organization whose mission statement reads – “To encourage health and wellness among African American men by promoting a culture of running/jogging to stay fit resulting in “A Healthy Brotherhood.” I only recently became aware of this organization – their moment is growing – they have groups in Atlanta, New York City and Philadelphia with others locations starting up.
At the conclusion of the unveilingl program, I quickly thanked Gary Corbitt for all that he has done to promote his father’s legacy and to support and strengthen the participation of Black-Americans in all aspects of track and field and distance running through his research and writing. I was then off to catch my train back to Philadelphia. I reached home around 9:00 PM and was welcomed by my wife, Doris S. Cochran-Fikes, who is the joy of my life and the person who provides me with continuous inspiration simply by being herself. How did I get so lucky.
If you have interest and or want to learn more about Ted Corbitt, Gary Corbitt and/or Black Men Run, please Goggle them, you will be inspired.
Stay well.



Dear George:
I heard about Ted Corbitt very soon after I began distance running in 1947.  He was beginning to be a legend even then.
However, a story I heard (or read) about him has always stuck with me.
Apparently, Ted used to run to work in the morning and run home at night as a regular part of his training.  His route went past one of New York's famed mental institutions, but I can't remember which one.  He did this for years.
On one morning, Ted was planning to race that afternoon so he cut short his run and was walking when he passed the facility.  A guard at the front gate came out and asked:
"Is anything wrong?"

Ted replied, "No!  Why do you ask?" and the guard answered,  "I've never seen you walk before."  Thom Coyne

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