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Central Park

Fred Lebow Statue

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This life-sized bronze sculpture depicts Fred Lebow (1932–1994), who is best remembered as the founder of the world-renowned New York City Marathon and longtime president of the New York Road Runners Club. The sculpture was created by Jesus Ygnacio Dominguez and shows Lebow in his trademark running suit and hat, checking his watch as runners cross the finish line.

The sixth of seven children, Lebow was born Fischel Lebowitz in Arad, Romania on June 3, 1932. In his youth he hid from the Nazis and later fled from the Communists, making brief stops in England, Ireland, Czechoslovakia and other European countries before settling in the United States. After moving to New York City, Lebow embarked on a successful career in the garment and textile industry.

Lebow began running to improve his stamina for tennis, but soon realized that running was his true passion. In 1970 he organized the first New York City Marathon, which was run entirely in Central Park with only 127 participants. Lebow used his own money to purchase prizes for the first ten people to cross the finish line. In 1976 the Marathon was re-routed to travel through the streets of all five of New York’s boroughs. The race now attracts more than 30,000 runners each year, and is supported by major corporate sponsors.

Lebow envisioned the New York City Marathon as a race for everyone -- men and women of every color, creed and country, regardless of ability. Each runner seeks his or her own goal -- whether to win, to achieve a personal best, or simply to finish.

Lebow served as president of the New York Road Runners club from 1972 until his retirement in 1993, after which he was feted by Mayor Giuliani at a Gracie Mansion reception. Under Lebow’s direction the NYRRC instituted programs and events which popularized running and helped provide a safe atmosphere in Central Park. The NYRRC flourished and became the largest running club in the world.

Lebow was diagnosed with brain cancer in 1990. He ran his final marathon in 1992 with Grete Waitz in celebration of his 60th birthday and his cancer’s temporary remission. Lebow finally succumbed to cancer on October 9, 1994.

To honor Lebow’s vision and work Daniel Mitrovich created the New York City Marathon Tribute Committee and commissioned this sculpture. It was unveiled November 4, 1994 in a ceremony held near the Marathon’s finish line near the West Drive at 67th Street in Central Park. The event was attended by 23 former winners of the New York City Marathon, Mr. Lebow’s family and friends, and hundreds of running enthusiasts. On November 1, 2001 the sculpture was reinstalled on a new black granite pedestal at 90th Street and the East Drive in Central Park, where runners gather daily to work out together. For the Marathon each year, the Lebow statue returns to a spot within view of the finish line amidst the cheering spectators.

Photo of the Fred Lebow Statue in Central Park

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