Mary Wittenberg leaves NYRR

Mary Wittenberg with Paula Radcliffe in 2007
Mary Wittenberg with Paula Radcliffe in 2007
David Lam / CC

Mary Wittenberg, longtime president of the New York Road Runners and race director for the New York Marathon, has announced that she is resigning in order to take on a new role as the global CEO of Virgin Sport, a self-described “active lifestyle company” that will seek to promote health and wellness through fitness programs and events. NYRR is a not-for-profit organization with an annual revenue of over $70 million.

Though the NY Marathon is the most well known event, under Wittenberg the NYRR also played an important role in promoting the accessibility of running to a broader set of demographics, most impressive are the 200,000 students participating in the organization’s free youth running program.

“My days at NYRR have been fuelled by the inspiration all around me and it has been an immense privilege to serve our runners and community while working side by side with so many amazing partners and talented and deeply committed staff, volunteers and board of directors,” said Wittenberg ina press release.  “I am predicting this next leg of NYRR’s run will be the best yet.”

Mary Wittenberg first joined NYRR in 1998 and went on to become the chief operating officer in 2000. By 2005, she was the first female to act as president and CEO of NYRR and race director of the city’s marathon. Under her tutelage, the race was revitalized, being named the 2011 Sports Business Journal Event of the Year and grew to an impressive size of 50,000 participants and approximately two million spectators.

In 2012, however, Wittenberg face much criticism after attempting to host the marathon despite Hurricane Sandy’s arrival in the region. It was her hope, as well as Mayor Bloomberg’s, that the race would serve as a morale boost for the city. Ultimately, resources had to be focused towards damaged areas of the city and the race was cancelled two days before it was scheduled to run. Much of the backlash that Wittenberg faced was from frustrated runners who had already travelled to the city, only to find out the race was not on. This was the first time that the NY Marathon was not run since its inception in 1970.

In 2014, despite being “over running marathons,” Wittenberg went to Boston to participate and show solidarity for the running community. Her perspective on the previous year’s tragedy would certainly be unique as a race director herself.

Her deputies, Michael Capiraso and Peter Ciaccia, will take of the responsibility of leading the organization.