The American Marathon (Sports and Entertainment)

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9780815605201: The American Marathon (Sports and Entertainment)
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Boston established a footrace but New York City created a marathon culture that annually draws tens
of thousands of runners to each of the major American events.

The American Marathon is the first in-depth study of the marathon as a cultural performance that has as much power to unite communities across lines of race, ethnicity, class, and gender as it does to empower individuals. This book encompasses more than a century, from the fledgling days of the footrace in the 1890s to the popular contemporary marathons that have become corporate-sponsored institutions.

Run in New York City in 1896 and continued in Boston for the next ten years, the marathon quickly became the event of the working-class athletes, particularly Irish Americans. Other urban ethnic groups-Italians, Jews, and African Americans who were unwelcome into the elite WASP athletic dubs-formed their own running organizations. Once emblematic of the immigrant experience, the marathon evolved to express middle-class nationalism as these immigrants were being assimilated. During the 1930s the Great Depression restricted footracing, and anti-Semitism left important coaches and runners without access to team support.

The New York Pioneer Club, begun in 1936 as an African-American team, brought the tremendous
energy of post-World War II Harlem to the American marathon of the 1950s. Besides examining
the ethnic influence on marathoning, Cooper also explores the impact of the Cold War on this sport, when fitness and endurance became matters of national pride. She shows how the Road Runners Club of America first brought women and large numbers of participant runners into long-distance footraces and, finally, how corporate sponsorship and direct payments to athletes profoundly changed the nature of this once-amateur sport.

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About the Author:

Pamela Cooper writes for, and serves as historical advisor to, Runners World magazine. She has published articles on the marathon footrace in the Journal of Sport History and the International Journal of the History of Sport.

From Publishers Weekly:

After its initial introduction at the 1896 Olympic Games in Greece, the modern marathon (26.2 miles) caught on quickly, traveling to America, where the first U.S. marathon, a 25-mile footrace from Connecticut to the Bronx, was held the same year. This was followed in 1897 by the granddaddy of the sport, the Boston Marathon. Cooper, a historical adviser for Runner's World, emphasizes the social significance of the marathon. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, upper-class athletes dominated more rarefied track and field events, leaving the marathon to the working classes and, increasingly to ethnic groups (particularly the Irish, Italians, Germans and African Americans) who could compete on equal terms. The 1970s saw both the increasing gentrification of the sport and a rise in the number of women bucking prohibitions against their participation. Cooper also looks at the politicking of American Germans and Jews over the 1936 Olympics; the influence of Joe Yancey and Harlem's New York Pioneer Club; the provincial boosterism in this ultimate big-city endeavor; and marathoning as a Cold War propaganda tool. Cooper is not the first to view this country's history through the lens of sports, but she does it well with a less well-examined pursuit. This comprehensive volume?heavy on sociology as well as athletics?contains everything you ever wanted to know about marathons, but also a great deal of real significance that you didn't know to ask. 12 b&w photos.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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9780815605737: The American Marathon (Sports and Entertainment)

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ISBN 10:  0815605730 ISBN 13:  9780815605737
Publisher: Syracuse University Press, 1998
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