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Inspiring Vintage Photos Of The New York Marathon To Mark Its 50th Year

We look back at some amazing historical photos of the best of the marathon from the very first race in 1970.

Posted on November 7, 2021, at 11:18 a.m. ET

The 50th New York City Marathon is Sunday. Starting in Staten Island and finishing in Central Park, the marathon didn't occur last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. The very first New York City marathon was in September 1970 and consisted of multiple loops of Central Park. We collected vintage images from the event from 1970 through the 1980s that show off the cityscape, fall in New York, and the runners themselves.

Many people running across the bridge seen from above
Associated Press

The start of the 1978 New York City Marathon on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, 1978

Black-and-white photo showing a man running toward the camera with crowds on either side
New York Daily News / New York Daily News via Getty Images

Norman Higgins gets support from the crowd in Central Park as he nears the finish of the first New York City Marathon in 1971.

"NY City Marathon Start" banner and many runners
New York Daily News / NY Daily News via Getty Images

The start of the New York Marathon in Central Park in 1975. Because of the number of participants, it would be the last time the marathon was run entirely in the park.

Close-up of runner
NY Daily News via Getty Images

Runner Beth Bonner in Central Park during the first New York City Marathon in 1971

Ray Stubblebine / Associated Press

Juma Ikangaa of Tanzania crosses the finish line to win the New York City Marathon on Nov. 6, 1989. Ikangaa broke the course record with a time of 2:08:01. At the bottom right is Parks Commissioner Henry Stern.

Dave Pickoff / AP

Entrants in the forthcoming New York City Marathon during a press conference at Central Park on Oct. 19, 1978. From left: Jack Foster of New Zealand, Esa Tikkanen of Finland, Chris Stewart of Great Britain, and Massimo Magnani of Italy.

Tom Middlemiss / AP

Protected spectators give a wet marathon runner moral support as he crosses the Pulaski Bridge from Brooklyn to Queens during the New York City Marathon on Oct. 23, 1983.

Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

Bob Hall of Belmont, Massachusetts, pushes himself along in his wheelchair as he crosses the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan during the 26-mile, 385-yard New York City Marathon on Oct. 23, 1977.

Two people sit together, smiling
Courtesy New York Road Runners

A runner and friend at the first New York City Marathon in 1970.

Two smiling runners hug and hold hands of children and other family members
Courtesy New York Road Runners

Runners with family members at a race in the 1970s

Wide black-and-white shot of runners
New York Times Co. / Getty Images

Crowds of participants run across the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge at the beginning of the New York City Marathon on Oct. 21, 1979.

Hundreds of cups on a table in a black-and-white photo
Scott Mcpartland / Getty Images

Volunteers at a water station place filled cups on folding tables at the 14-mile marker on Crescent Street in Queens during the New York City Marathon on Oct. 26, 1980.

Man with his eyes closed pours water over his head
New York Daily News / New York Daily News via Getty Images

Norman Higgins splashes himself with water after winning the trophy at the 1971 New York City Marathon.

Alain Nogues / Sygma via Getty Images

Two runners at the 1978 New York City Marathon, which had 11,400 participants from all over the United States and 52 countries. The winner, Bill Rodgers, covered the distance in 2 hours, 2 minutes, and 12 seconds.

Man watches runners on a small TV
Marty Lederhandler / AP

Fred Lebow, president of the New York Road Runners Club, cofounder of the New York City Marathon, gazes at a TV monitor in New York on April 25, 1980, that shows the finish line of the Boston Marathon at the time Rosie Ruiz claims to have finished the race. Ruiz is not in the picture, and her time was invalidated.

A crowd of spectators beside the road watch Rodgers run
Robert Riger / Getty Images

Bill Rodgers of the United States runs during the New York City Marathon on Oct. 21, 1979.

Two people support Muhrcke after finishing the race as spectators look on
Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times

At the 26.2-mile New York City Marathon in 1970, Gary Muhrcke, #2 and affiliated with the Millrose Athletic Association, broke the tape after running the 26.2-mile race in 2 hours and 34 minutes.

Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times

Runners are passed by two bikers in the New York City Marathon.

David Madison / Getty Images

Runners competing in the New York City Marathon near the finish line in Central Park on Oct. 21, 1979.

Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times

"Spectators" at the 26.2-mile New York City Marathon in 1970.

Jp / AP

Grete Waitz of Norway crosses the finish line after running 26 miles in the New York City Marathon, on Oct. 22, 1978, and posting the fastest time ever for a woman.

Fleming crosses the finish line as spectators look on
Tyrone Dukes/The New York Times

Tom Fleming of Bloomfield, New Jersey, wins the fourth annual New York City Marathon in Central Park in 1973.

Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

Bill Rodgers, a 31-year-old runner from Melrose, Massachusetts, is seen here wearing a crown of laurels he received after winning the New York City Marathon for the fourth time in 1979.

David Madison / Getty Images

Runners recover in Central Park after competing in the New York City Marathon on Oct. 26, 1980.

David Madison / Getty Images

Pedestrians study the results of the 1980 New York City Marathon posted on a window in the city.

Correction: Only one woman ran the marathon in 1970. A previous version of this story misidentified a runner's friend as a participant.



A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.