NEW YORK - The New York City Marathon is celebrating 50 years in 2020. The marathon was very different back on Sept. 13, 1970. The 26.2 miles were run entirely within the confines of Central Park. At the starting line were 126 men and one woman.
"The first marathon had 127 starters," New York Road Runners Chairman of the Board George Hirsch said. "I have very vivid memories of that time. There were not a lot of runners, almost all of us were men."
He said that race wasn't very well organized. Race participants had to dodge cyclists and pedestrians using the park. Only 55 men crossed the finish line.
"Women is one of the biggest changes in the marathon, in running in general," Hirsch said. "The first woman to win the race—she still lives here in New York, on Long Island—Nina Kuscsik."
Hirsch, a retired marathon runner, said that in 1976 he and other runners proposed the idea of running through all five boroughs and not just loops around Central Park.
"We went to the then-mayor and convinced him to do it as part of the Bicentennial. The city was not in a good way, it was in trouble," Hirsch said. "We convinced him as part of the celebration, that a marathon might be a great idea to lift the spirit of the city. And he agreed."
The winner that year was Bill Rodgers.
Throughout the years, the New York City Marathon has gotten bigger and bigger. This year, about 53,000 athletes will lace up while millions will cheer them on.