INSIDE THE WORLD OF BIG-TIME MARATHONING by Fred with Richard Woodley Lebow

INSIDE THE WORLD OF BIG-TIME MARATHONING

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Rather, inside the world of the opinionated, abrasive, phenomenally successful producer of the New York City Marathon. Lebow does nothing to alter this widely-held picture of himself; in fact, every page confirms it. Lebow was born into an orthodox Jewish family in western Rumania (on the Hungarian and Yugoslavian borders) in 1932; by an astounding battle of wits, along with some luck, all nine members of his immediate family survived the Nazi occupation and Russian liberation. After a spell on the streets in Western Europe, Lebow came to the United States, worked briefly in theater, established himself in the garment industry, and then--as a hobby--took on the task of developing New York road racing. (Apart from the Marathon, Lebow's New York Road Runners' Club sponsors and organizes numerous road races of various lengths.) The rest of this colorful account relates Lebow's considerable trials with the New York City Marathon over the years, and how he overcame them in characteristic brash style. (Lebow is just not a sympathetic character.) The challenges were personal, as well as occupational: Lebow went celibate for a year, we're told, to test his self-discipline. But all the big controversies are here too: Lebow's stormy relationship with Bill Rodgers (Rodgers is infinitely more appealing); his encounters with street gangs who threatened to intercept the Marathon (Lebow bought their cooperation with bribes of money, T-shirts, etc.); and his unsuccessful fight to keep wheelchair contestants out of the race. Here, at least, Lebow fully recognizes the unpopularity of his position; he maintains that wheelchairs are an extreme danger to racers, and that at least one would-be contestant was physically able to compete on foot (though his time would be much better in a chair). We also get Lebow-skewed glimpses of all the New York winners (prominently, Salazar and Waltz) and of the disgraced Rosie Ruiz (Lebow's detective work was her downfall). The book revolves around Lebow, not marathoning--but those in the know will find it entertaining as well as exasperating.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1984
Publisher: Rawson/Scribners