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Original Issue


Apparently, Fred Lebow grew tired of waiting for someone else to tell the story of how he made the New York City Marathon into the greatest road race in the world and in the process became one of the most important people in the world of distance running, so he decided to do the job himself. Inside the World of Big-Time Marathoning (Rawson Associates, $15.95), written with the help of Richard Woodley, describes how the race developed under Lebow's guidance from a handful of local men trotting through the Bronx in their underwear to an international event encompassing all five New York boroughs. On Oct. 28, 1984, more than 18,000 men and women will run in the 15th N.Y.C. Marathon, and millions will watch on TV. The N.Y.C. Marathon, as Lebow details, requires staggering logistical planning, covering everything from the serving of carbohydrates—a Saturday-night pasta fest—to the deployment of police. Lebow also gives readers details of his personal life: his childhood in Romania during World War II; how he smuggled sugar from one country to another throughout Europe, and then diamonds cross-Channel from Belgium to England. He studied Hebrew in Ireland, came to the U.S. and acquired a Social Security card at an office where no important questions were asked. He began to run when he couldn't play a winning game of tennis. Lebow also reveals how he controls the number of hours he sleeps, the amount he eats and his sex life. He once decided "to abstain totally" from sex for a while because it was interfering with business. "I went for three months, then four...then I figured I might as well make it half a year.... At nine months I thought, let's make it an even year." He did, although he never stopped dating. If you're wondering what all this has to do with the book's title, it's just that Lebow obviously considers "Fred Lebow" synonymous with "Big-Time Marathoning." Maybe he's right. But it would have been nice if he'd waited for someone else to pin the medals on him rather than doing it himself.