Who is Fred?
Fred Lebow ran as a means to fight back against his cancer diagnosis.
His passion for running energized an entire nation. He co-founded the New York City Marathon, which now attracts over 50,000 runners from all over the world.
His inspiration remains evident today, as thousands of people continue to run miles and miles to raise millions of dollars to help fund cancer research.
Born Ephraim Fischel Lebowitz, in Arad, Romania, Fred was a refugee before settling in the United States to start a new life. In 1949, he immigrated to Manhattan, Americanized his name, and took up running.
In 1969, he joined the New York Road Runners and became club president a few years later. He ran in the 1970 inaugural marathon, finishing 45th out of 55 runners. In 1976, Fred made the five-borough New York City Marathon a reality after many years of lobbying.
He completed 69 marathons in 30 countries, and during his 20 years as New York Road Runners president, he not only popularized and promoted the New York City Marathon, but also helped create marathons in Chicago, Los Angeles, Beijing, and London. New Yorkers may also be familiar with several local events of his creation, such as the Empire State Building Run-Up, the Fifth Avenue Mile, and the Mini-Marathon 10K.
It was at the twilight of his running career that Fred created a new legacy by inspiring a legion of runners who shared his dream of a world without cancer.
In early 1990, after Fred was diagnosed with brain cancer, he became determined to use running as means to battle the disease. He designated Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) as the New York City Marathon's first official charity. In 1991, a group of marathon runners responded by raising more than $650,000 to support cancer research at MSK.
In 1992, Fred ran his final New York City Marathon in celebration of his 60th birthday and his cancer's remission. Nine-time marathon women's champion Grete Waitz ran this epic race alongside him. That year, Fred and a group of marathon runners raised nearly $1 million to support research at MSK.
Fred lost his battle with cancer on October 9, 1994.
Later that year on November 4th, a statue was unveiled in his honor that depicted Fred timing runners with his watch. In 2001, the statue was moved to the East Side of Central Park Drive at 90th Street. Every year since, on the first weekend in November, the statue is moved to a spot near the New York City Marathon finish line.
One year after his death, Fred's Team was created to honor the life and legacy of Fred Lebow.
“In running, it doesn't matter whether you come in first, in the middle of the pack, or last. You can say, 'I have finished.' There is a lot of satisfaction in that.”