First & First Again - Mary Wittenberg, John Chaplin NBN Indoors Honorary Referee

by Dave Kearney

Mary Wittenberg is the recipient of the New Balance Nationals Indoors First John Chaplin Honorary Referee Award.

Mary is President and CEO of the New York Road Runners, and Race Director of the ING New York City Marathon, the world’s most celebrated road race. She is the first and only female race director of a World Marathon Majors race, and the first female leader of the world’s premier road running organization.

Mary and her NYRR team have worked tirelessly on many world-class initiatives such as creation of the World Marathon Majors, which includes the Boston, London, Berlin, New York, and Chicago Marathons; hosting of the 2006 USA Cross Country Championships in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx; inauguration of the NYC Half with its famed Manhattan course; hosting of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Men’s Marathon in New York City; and expansion of NYRR’s commitment to youth running to reach more than 100,000 children worldwide. Under Mary’s leadership, the 2010 ING New York City Marathon was named “Sports Event of the Year” by SportsBusiness Journal. In addition to the ING New York City Marathon, NYRR produces more than 70 annual events; offers classes, clinics, and lectures on running and fitness; maintains a strong and growing digital presence; publishes New York Runner magazine; and supports charitable initiatives that raised more than $34 million in 2011.

Mary joined the NYRR staff in 1998 and became the organization’s first Chief Operating Officer in 2000. In 2004 she was named Executive Vice President and the Marathon’s Associate Race Director. Prior to her arrival at NYRR, she was a partner in the Hunton & Williams law firm in Richmond, Virginia and New York City. She is a 1984 graduate of Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, and received her law degree in 1987 from Notre Dame University Law School. She won the 1987 Marine Corps Marathon and competed in the 1988 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Women’s Marathon. Mary lives just a quick run from Central Park with her husband, Derek, and their two sons, Alex, 10, and Cary, 8.


The John Chaplin Honorary Referee award reflects the name and character of a man who has served as NSSF’s Meet Referee for many years – John Chaplin. John has a colorful and significant history in the sport of track and field. Most importantly, he has been a staunch friend and promoter of the sport at all levels.

John graduated from Wilson High School in Los Angeles in 1955. In 1959, after three years in the service, he enrolled at, and ran sprints for, Pasadena City College for one year. He then transferred to Washington State University where he ran for the Cougars from 1960 through 1963, setting world records in the indoor 220-yard and 330-yard dashes. After coaching for a few years at Wapato High School in Washington and at Oregon State University, he returned to WSU to coach, becoming the track and field head coach in 1973. In the role, he was named Pac-10 and NCAA District VIII Coach of the Year a total of 11 times. His teams won the 1977 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championship and had four NCAA runner-up finishes. His teams also won four Pac-10 titles and compiled a .931 dual meet win percentage.

John was named International Coach of the Year in 1978. He was the Men’s Olympic Track & Field Head Coach for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. He has served as Chair of various USA Track & Field (USATF) committees, including the Men’s Track & Field Executive Committee; was one of the original members of the National Track & Field Hall of Fame selection committee; and was International Technical Officer for the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). In addition to NSSF’s indoor and outdoor meets, John has served as a referee at many other top meets, including the Texas Relays, and the Penn Relays.

John has been named to the Pasadena City College and Washington State University Halls of Fame. His 2002 WSU Hall of Fame induction class of six also included All-American quarterback Drew Bledsoe, MLB star John Olerud, and long-time Detroit Lions placekicker  Jason Hanson.
Thank you, John, for your tremendous contributions to the NSSF and to our entire sport!

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