Celebrating African American Running History
African Running History Project (1880 – 1979)
February Running History
James M. Dean
“The colored long distance runner of Boston”
An African American Pedestrian Pioneer
Running History: February 14, 1899
James Dean placed third in a 12 Hour Go-As-You-Please race at New York’s Grand Central Palace.
Dean covered 67 miles. The winner Pete Hegelman completed 70 miles.
Running History: February 10, 1902
James Dean and E.M Campbell representing the American Colored Team competed in a 6 Day Race at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The winning team of Pete Hagelman and Pat Cavanaugh covered 770 miles and 4 laps and won $5,000. There were 43(2 men) teams that competed.
Source: Tom Osler Scrapbook
“The Quintessential Middle Distance Runner”
February 13, 1954
Harry Bright representing the New York Pioneer Club (NYPC) wins the NYAC 880 yard run in 1:53.4 at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Harry’s win was over Paul Raudenbush – Penn, Lt. Carl Joyce – USMC, and Roscoe Lee Browne –NYPC. Later that evening Harry ran second leg for the NYPC mile relay team with a split of 48.2. NYPC time of 3:17.9 was at the time the season’s fastest one mile relay.
New York Pioneer Club (NYPC)
Wins the National Indoor Track & Field Title
Running History: February 17, 1951
The NYPC made history at the National AAU Indoor Championships at Madison Square Garden. Led by individual winners Ed Conwell (60-yard dash), Hugo Maiocco (600-yard run) and Roscoe Lee Browne (1,000-yard run), the Pioneers took their first National team title, beating out Seton Hall University and the New York Athletic Club (NYAC). The NYAC had won the National Indoor championship 17 times in the previous 19 years, but would not add African-American athletes to its lineup until the 1980s.
The NYPC is history’s most unique athletic team founded in 1936 by three African Americans; Joseph J. Yancey, Robert Douglas and William Culbreath in 1936 in Harlem, New York. Robert Douglas was manager of the Renaissance Casino and the Harlem Rens Basketball team.
NYPC was one of the first large scale integrated clubs in any sport amateur or professional.
Roscoe Lee Browne
(1922 – 2007)
Running History: February 18, 1950
Roscoe L. Browne wins the AAU National Indoor Championship at 1,000 yards at Madison Square Garden. Representing the New York Pioneer Club he beat Phil Thigpen in 2:15.6
In 1951, Roscoe had the best time in the world for 800 meters with a 1:49.3. He was a favorite to make the 1952 Olympic team but due to an injury was unable to compete in trials.
Roscoe Browne became well known as an actor of the stage, and in film and television.
He was a 2015 inductee into the National Black Marathoners Association Hall of Fame
Robin Theresa Campbell – Bennett
Track History: February 22, 1974
Robin Campbell wins the National Indoor One Mile Championship over Doreen Ennis at Madison Square Garden. Her time was 4:50.7. Robin was a two time Olympian at 800 in 1980 and 1984.
Her range in racing distances and longevity competing at a national championship level was special.
She was national champion at 440 yards in 1975, 800 meter in 1983, and one mile in 1974.
Robin competed in every Olympic Trials between 1972 and 1984.
Theodore “Ted” Corbitt
(1919 – 2007)
Running History: February 22, 1959
Ted Corbitt wins the first New York City Marathon in 2:38:57. The race was called the Cherry Tree Marathon held in the Bronx at MaCombs Dam Park. This was the first marathon conducted by the newly formed New York Road Runners Club. There were 12 starters, 7 finishers. The New York Road Runners in 1959 had 47 members. In 2015 the NY Marathon had 49,617 finishers, and membership exceeds 60,000.
New York Road Runner Officers for 1959 – 1960:
President: Ted Corbitt (New York Pioneer Club)
Vice President: Joe Kleinerman (Millrose AA)
Secretary – Treasurer: John Sterner (New York Pioneer Club)
All-Around Great Athlete
(1913 – 1942)
Track History: John Borican win the indoor U.S. title at 1,000 yards an amazing four consecutive years at New York’s Madison Square Garden
February 25, 1939 – 1,000 Meters – win over Stanford Goldberg in 2:28.6
February 24, 1940 – 1,000 yards – win over John Woodruff in 2:13.2
February 22, 1941 – 1,000 yards – win over Jim Kehoe in a meet record 2:11.6
February 28, 1942 – 1,000 yards – win over Campbell Kane in a meet record of 2:10.5
John was an amazing all-around athlete winning national titles in the pentathlon (1938 and 1939), the decathlon (1941) and the 800 meters (1941 and 1942). It was indoors, however, where Borican posted his most impressive achievements. His best season was 1939, when he won 11 of 15 races and set world indoor best in the 800 meters, 880 yards, and 1,000 yards. He won four straight national indoor titles at 1,000 yards from 1939 to 1942.
He died at age 29 from anemia. He received a masters of arts degree from Columbia University and was a candidate for a Ph.D at the time of his death. His early passing prevented him from realizing his dream of becoming the first Negro mile champion.
Frank T. Dixon 3d
(1922 – 1977)
Running History: February 27, 1943
Frank Dixon beats Gil Dodds to win the National Indoor Mile Championship at Madison Square Garden in 4:09.6. The outdoor world record by Gunder Hagg at the time was 4:04.6.
March Running History
Wins Indoor Marathon in Pittsburgh - 1909
Running History: March 2, 1909
“Colored Runner Wins Indoor Marathon”
“Howard H. Hall, a colored lad was the winner of great indoor Marathon race at the Exposition rink last night. His time for the 26 miles, 385 yards, was 3 hours, 29 minutes, 54 2-5 seconds.”
“The race was a spectacular affair and was witnessed by a crowd of 10,000 persons. They packed the massive hall, and made the walkin ring with their shouts of encouragement to their favorites in the race.”
“Hall is a Pittsburgh High School boy, who is at present employed in the post office. He is 23 years old and was born in Allegheny. Experts at last night’s race say they have never seen in these parts a better stride than Hall possesses, and predicts for him a brilliant future in long distance running.”
‘The runners who finished the race were in good condition, and stated afterwards that they felt no ill effects. Hall, the colored winner, declared that aside from a tired feeling in his legs he felt as fresh as at the start, and it must be admitted that he did not appear the least bit distressed.”
“About 30 runners finished the course, but there were prizes for but 20.”
Source: The Pittsburgh Press – March 3, 1909
“Speed & Grace”
Running History: March 4, 1967
Oscar Moore 1964 takes second place to Tracy Smith at the AAU National Championship. Smith set a world indoor record of 13:16.2, while Moore time of 13:22.2 was one of the best performances of all-time at this distance.
In 1964, Oscar Moore becomes the first African American to represent the U.S. at the Olympic Games for the 5,000 meters. The Olympics were held in Tokyo and Oscar finished 8th in his heat in 14:24.
In September 1963, Oscar Moore defeated Pete McArdle in the New York Metropolitan 20K Championship on the RRC Harlem River 4.01 miles course at MaCombs Dam Park and Yankee Stadium.
This is considered one of the greatest road races in New York City history. It was McArdles’s first defeat in the NY area in 4 years. Four course records were set by Moore. He ran the last lap in 20:17 to beat the previous one lap record of Jim O’Connell. He ran the last 2 laps in 40:40 to beat McArdles’s two lap record.
Wins the First Marathon in the South - 1909
Running History: March 1909
“First Marathon in the South Won by Colored Runner”
“It has just come to the notice of THE AGE that the first Marathon race ever pulled off in the South was held in New Orleans, La., several days ago and was won by a colored athlete. Charles Burden, of Union, La., was the young Negro who in a two hours and ten minutes endurance contest won over his white competitors. The race was held under the auspices of the Southern A.A.U., and Burden was entered by a Chicago white man. He was number 20, and when his number was called and it was learned that Burden was colored, the promoters almost had fainting spells, and the doctors refused to examine him. However, when the race ended, he crossed the line first, ahead of the white and Indian runners. The promoters of the race are not yet over Burden winning.”
Source: The New York Age, March 18, 1909
James “Jimmy” Borden
Founder & Coach United Athletic Association
Running History: March 23, 1957
Jim Borden representing the New York Pioneer Club wins the Junior National 30K Championship in 1:57:06. The race was held in Brighton, MA.
In 1960 Jimmy Borden started a New York based integrated running club following the model set by the New York Pioneer Club.
Some 1957 & 1958 Running Accomplishments:
National 20K Championship 10th place 1:17:17
New York Metropolitan 10 Mile Championship 10th place 59:25
National 25K Championship 15th place 1:37:59
Jersey City Marathon 12th place 2:46:11
9 Mile Cross-Country Van Cortlandt Park 6th place 56:03
For more running history:
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Celebrating African American Running History