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Tracksmith Br Pioneers 10 23 2020 107

The New York
Pioneer Club

Inspired by the legacy of New York Pioneer Club athlete Ted Corbitt and in celebration of 50 years of New York's marathon – the course for which Corbitt helped plan – we worked with writer, coach and Black Roses NYC founder Knox Robinson to craft the New York Pioneer Club Collection. Using archival images of the Pioneers’ uniforms, this limited-edition collection features racing kits, tees, sweatshirts and ephemera with the club's signature varsity lettering and colors. 

Five percent of all Collection sales will go to support the Jeuness Track Club, a community-based girl’s track club founded thanks to the lasting legacy of the Pioneers.


The Creator

Ted Corbitt has been hailed as the “spiritual elder of the modern running clan” and the father of long-distance running. The first Black athlete to compete in the Olympic Marathon for the United States, he was the co-founder and president of the New York Road Runners and instrumental in creating the course measurement standards we rely on today. A member of the New York Pioneer Club and an acclaimed physical therapist, Corbitt completed four 300-mile training weeks while working full time, averaging 44.6 miles a day, and set several American records. His consistency and longevity were astounding, running over 1000 miles in one month at age 50 and walking 300 miles in six day at age 82.

Ted Corbitt By Michael Lewis Final

New York
Pioneer Club

Founded in 1936 in Harlem, NY by three Black Athletes –Joseph J. Yancey, Robert Douglas and William Culbreath – the Pioneer Club’s mission was “to support, encourage, and advance athletics among youth of the New York Metropolitan district, regardless of Race, Color or Creed. To encourage and further the ambition of our youth for higher education that they might become intelligent, civic-minded citizens, and to work toward a better racial understanding through the medium of education and sports.” Ted Corbitt became a member of the nation’s first integrated running club in 1947. He joined a group of championship athletes across a wide-range of disciplines from track and field to ultramarathoning, including Olympians Bob Beamon, John Carlos, Elliott Denman, Meredith Gourdine, Byron LaBeach, Gordon McKenzie, Oscar Moore and Reggie Pearman. As Corbitt’s son Gary notes, “the Pioneer Club was special; an integrated club made up all nationalities and abilities. The NYPC was making civil rights history in Harlem and the Bronx during an era of racial segregation. The beauty and genius of Mr. Yancey was coaching an athletic team that was a vehicle for his primary mission of building men of character.“

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The Jeuness
Track Club

The Jeuness Track Club Inc. (Juh-ness) is a grassroots community-based track club for girls, founded in 1985 by Jean Bell, who took inspiration from her youth running experiences at Atoms Track Club, one of the first running clubs for women, under the tutelage of New York Pioneer Club athlete Fred Thompson. The club was established to afford young girls an opportunity to grow in the sport of Track and Field while excelling in academic achievement and life experiences. The club is headquartered in the Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights areas of Brooklyn and assists girls ages 5-17 in becoming accomplished athletes, able to move on to the collegiate level and complete their education with the aid of athletic scholarships.

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The Godfather
of Long Distance
Running in America

“I've been vaguely obsessed with this picture of Corbitt taken by Michael Lewis near the end of the icon's life in 2007. The lighting and composition are near perfect, of course, but the power and the *energy* radiating from the photo borders on talismanic. In that, this one moment is an elegant counterpoint to the rictus of pain usually affixed to his face in those archival images from the Helsinki Olympic Marathon in 1952, his record-breaking numerous runs at Boston (19 consecutive sub-3:00 from 1954-1972) or the ultra distance exploits he pursued at home and away until the end of his days: 'My fitness level was not what I wanted...and I speculated I would be forced to drop out before darkness arrived,' Ted wrote after the Sri Chinmoy 6 Day Run on Ward's Island in 2001. 'During the night of Day Four, I began to experience hallucinations. Some of the weeds, grass and similar vegetation repeatedly appeared much larger than they really were.' Nevertheless, he persisted — covering 303mi for a new 80-84 year old age group record in the event."

"As I've pondered the life and legend of Ted through the filter of today's running boom, I've likewise been doing a little bit to share the story of the New York Pioneer Club—America's first multiracial athletics club, founded in 1936 a decade before the integration of professional sports in the USA—of which Ted was a proud member.”

— Knox Robinson