Mary Wittenberg

Ali on the Run Show Episode 98: Mary Wittenberg, Former CEO of New York Road Runners & Virgin Sport

“My greatest fear is letting fear get in my way.” —Mary Wittenberg

Mary Wittenberg is the former president and CEO of New York Road Runners and race director of the New York City Marathon, and was the Global CEO of Virgin Sport. Her titles are impressive, and she has the legacy to match. Mary has had an incredible impact on running. She is largely credited for turning marathon running into a spectator sport, and for getting female professional runners to be compensated appropriately. Mary was the brains behind the creation of the World Marathon Majors series, and she was at the helm of NYRR in 2012, when she and the city had to make the very public and controversial decision to cancel the New York City Marathon in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. On this episode, she talks about what it was like making that call, how she went from law school to big law to being a powerful force in the American running boom, and what’s next for her since leaving Virgin Sport.

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What you’ll get on this episode:

  • Mary explains whether she’s always been someone who loves being busy and super active (2:00)
  • What it was like growing up surrounded by men, and how that impacted Mary’s future (4:00)
  • How — and why — Mary went from law school to big law to the sports industry (7:20)
  • Mary opens up about her decision to wait to have children because of her career (13:45)
  • What it was like being race director of the New York City Marathon (15:00)
  • Mary shares her favorite memories from her time at New York Road Runners (29:15)
  • What it was like being a race director in a post-Boston Marathon bombings world (32:20)
  • Mary opens up about the 2012 New York City Marathon, and the decision to cancel the race after Hurricane Sandy — plus how she came back from that difficult time (36:50)
  • Who gets to hold the tape at the marathon finish line?! (45:45)
  • Why Mary left NYRR for Virgin Sport, and what it was like working with Richard Branson (48:00)
  • Whether Mary has ever regretted leaving her dream job at NYRR (53:00)
  • What it was like when Mary finally got to run the New York City Marathon for the first time in 2016 (57:00)
  • Mary offers her best advice for women in male-dominated industries (59:20)
  • What’s next for Mary Wittenberg? (1:01.15)

What we mention on this episode:

New York Road Runners

TCS New York City Marathon

Virgin Sport

University of Notre Dame

Molly Huddle

Marine Corps Marathon

Peter Ciaccia

Percy Sutton Harlem 5K

New York City Half

Popular Brooklyn Half

Fifth Avenue Mile

Alison Desir

John Honerkamp

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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