Celebrating African American Running History
African American Middle & Long Distance Running Timeline (1880-1979)

Byron Dyce

Running History: May 16, 1971
Bryon Dyce became the first African American with dual citizenship (Jamaica) to run a sub 4 minute mile at Franklin Field in Philadelphia at the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Games. Byron placed 3rd in 3:59.6 in the Dream Mile where Marty Liquori defeated Jim Ryun. This race was special in African American running history where the 3 top African American milers; Byron Dyce, Reggie McAfee, and Denis Fikes were all in this race. The race video is on YouTube.

Theodore “Ted” Corbitt
(1919 – 2007)

Running History: May 16, 1954
Ted Corbitt became the first African American to ever win the U.S. Marathon National Championship in Yonkers, New York. His time of 2:46:13.9 was over a 26.8 mile course.

This occurred on son Gary’s third birthday.

The landmark United States Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education in which the Court declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional occurred the next day.

Tommy Fulton (1952 – 2013)
“A Herculean Distance Odyssey”

Running History: May 25, 1973
Tommy Fulton completed an incredible 51 hours; 8 Races, 15.5 miles of track competition at the NAIA Championships representing Texas Southern University. This performance still remains unparalleled in distance running history.

Here was his eight race schedule:
May 23:
I mile heats– First Place
880 heats – First Place
3 mile heats – First Place
May 24:
880 semi-finals – First Place
3 mile final – First Place
May 25:
1 mile final – First Place 3:57.8 was an all-time best for an African American at the time.
880 final – Second Place to Mike Boit
6 mile final – Second Place

Edward “Eddie” Gardner
“The Shiek”
(1897 – 1966)

Running History: May 26, 1928
From March 4 to May 26, 1928, a unique event grabbed the attention of the American public—an eighty-four day, 3,400-mile footrace from Los Angeles to New York City, nicknamed the bunion derby. The 199 starters included five African Americans, a Jamaican-born Canadian, and perhaps as many as fifteen Latinos, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders, representing about ten percent of the competitors. The rest were white. The derby consisted of daily town-to-town stage races that took the men across the length of Route 66 to Chicago, then on other roads to the finish in Madison Square Garden. All were chasing a $25,000 first prize, a small fortune in 1928 dollars.

Edward Gardner would finish 8th in this race winning $1,000. He won more daily stages during the race than anyone.

His other running accomplishments include the following:
Tuskegee University 5 mile track record in 1915
In 1917 he won the Negro Alabama State Cross-Country Championship
In the early 1920s living in Seattle he won multiple Washington State 10 mile championships
He was quoted in 1960 saying “many a day I did 50 miles in under seven hours and over one long stretch they checked me over an 84 mile lap in 17 hours, 20 minutes, the all-time record.”
In 1928, Gardner set a U.S. record on a 50 mile course, finishing at Husky Stadium in 6 hours, 25 minutes and 28 seconds. A decade later he set a course record in a 52 mile walking race around Lake Washington.

Eddie Gardner was called "The Shiek" because he wore a white turban towel around his head with white shirt and shorts when he ran.

Source: Bunion Derby: The First Footrace Across America by Charles Kastner; 2007
Seattle History: The best local runner you’ve never heard of by Casey McNerthney; June 2011

For More Running History:
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