1972 NYC Marathon runner has an appeal

11/02/2012 - 10:11

By Bruce Morrison, Publisher

Paul Riefberg remembers when he finished the New York City Marathon 40 years earlier in 2:59. Riefberg, a former Alabama resident who now lives in Texas, was then running for the Long Island Athletic Club.

The New York City Marathon was in its infancy back then and there were only 182 finishers. Through an unusual situation, Riefberg was disqualified and he would like for that to be reversed all these years later. His time still counted as a qualifyer for the Boston Marathon, thus you need to know the rest of the story.

The now famous New York City Marathon was first held in 1970, having been organized by New York Road Runners Club President Vince Chiappeta and Fred Lebow with 127 runners doing loops around the Park Drive of Central Park. Only 55 runners finished with Gary Muhreke winning in 2:31:38.

But back to Paul Riefberg’s unusual situation in the third year of the New York City Marathon in 1972:

The Long Island Athletic Club had preregistered its team, of which Paul was a member, and Paul even knew his race number was 22.

He was unaware the registration table would be taken down at 10:30 and showed up about 10:40 a.m. However, since he knew his race number, someone at the registration area wrote number 22 with a magic marker on his running shirt.

After running his first sub-3 marathon, he was approached by Chiappetta who explained that someone who had not preregistered had shown up at 10:35 a.m. and was told registration was closed. Having shown up five minutes prior to Riefberg, the runner had complained. However, Chiappetta assured Riefberg his time would be certified for Boston.

Since Paul was registered and had his number, plus had his time certified for Boston, I think he deserves recognition as a finisher in 2:59. In fact, 40 years later number 22 would like to be reinstated as an official finisher. Is that possible?

Over the years, the New York City Marathon has grown a bit. Co-founder Fred Lebow redrew the course in 1976 to incorporate all five boroughs of New York City. Two years later, Norwegian Grete Waitz broke the women’s world record with a 2:32:30 finish and went on to win the race nine times.

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