Mary Wittenberg Steps Down As New York Road Runners President To Launch Virgin Sport

by: New York Road Runners Press Release
May 12, 2015

Editor’s note: We at will miss Mary Wittenberg. A strong advocate of the professional side of the sport, Mary knew that the pros could inspire a future generation of runners. The founders of grew up watching the NYC Marathon on national television on ABC and Mary helped get the TCS NYC Marathon on live ESPN coverage the last two years. Mary helped restore the stature of the New York City Marathon as one of the top sports events in America in our eyes. Good luck to her in her future endeavors.

*You can discuss her move here


New York, Tuesday, May 12, 2015 – Mary Wittenberg, under whose leadership New York Road Runners developed into the world’s premier community running organization, is stepping down to launch Virgin Sport as Global CEO of the new lifestyle company focused on participatory fitness events and programs.  Her two top deputies, Michael Capiraso and Peter Ciaccia, will take over the leadership of the organization, it was announced today by George A. Hirsch, Chairman of the Board of New York Road Runners.

“Mary’s been a trailblazer in our industry and the positive impact she’s had on New York Road Runners and the TCS New York City Marathon has been historic,” said Hirsch, who has served as Chairman of the Board since 2005 and is one of the founders of the New York City Marathon along with Fred Lebow.  “Mary has proven that she is one of the top sports executives in the world and we’ll miss her vision and leadership.”

“The Board of Directors has approved the promotions of Michael and Peter, allowing for a smooth leadership transition and continuity in our events, programs and community initiatives,” continued Hirsch. “To Mary’s credit, she put her successors in place, which I regard as the hallmark of a successful leader.  NYRR has never been in a stronger position.”

Mary Wittenberg at NYRR

Under Wittenberg’s leadership, NYRR elevated its prominence and impact by making running more accessible to a broader audience.  More than 400,000 people of all ages are engaged annually in NYRR activities, including 200,000 students locally and nationally through NYRR’s free youth running programs, events, and resources, of which more than 120,000 are in New York City’s five boroughs.

Abdi Abdirahman, Bernard Lagat, NYRR CEO Mary Wittenberg, and Dathan Ritzenhein (LRC Photo) Abdi Abdirahman, Bernard Lagat, NYRR CEO Mary Wittenberg, and Dathan Ritzenhein (LRC Photo)

Wittenberg joined NYRR in 1998 and became its first Chief Operating Officer in 2000.  In 2005, she became the first woman to lead NYRR as President and CEO and also became the Race Director of the New York City Marathon.

With Wittenberg leading the way, the New York City Marathon, which was named the 2011 Sports Business Journal Event of the Year, grew in stature as New York City’s premier annual sporting event, uniting the neighborhoods of New York City’s five boroughs and drawing runners from around the world.  In October 2014, Wittenberg and Hirsch accepted the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award from the King of Spain on behalf of the TCS New York City Marathon, which today features 50,000 runners and nearly 2 million spectators, making it what is widely regarded as the world’s premier running event.

Wittenberg has been an influential figure in the running world and a prominent leader of the Abbott World Marathon Majors, which she helped found in 2006.

“My days at NYRR have been fueled 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.  “NYRR is fortunate to have Michael and Peter ready to take the baton with the invaluable benefit of George Hirsch, with his many years of experience, working closely with them as he and the Board have with me these past ten years. I am predicting this next leg of NYRR’s run will be the best yet.”

George A. Hirsch – NYRR Chairman of the Board

Hirsch is the founding publisher of New York magazine, was the long time worldwide publisher of Runner’s World and has been a TV commentator at numerous running events including three Olympic Games.  In 1986 he was the unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Congress in Manhattan’s Silk Stocking District.  Still an active runner, he has won his age group in his last ten marathons.

Mary Wittenberg in 2009 Mary Wittenberg with the late Sammy Wanjiru in 2009

Michael Capiraso – NYRR President and CEO

Capiraso, who has been with NYRR since 2010, will move into the position of president and CEO from his role as chief operating officer where he focused on NYRR’s day-to-day operations.  He will oversee the Marketing, Business Development, Legal Affairs, Youth & Community Services, Philanthropy & Development, Administration, Finance, IT, HR, and Strategy, Planning, & Operations teams.

An industry veteran with extensive experience in marketing, strategy and operations, Capiraso was a key executive with a variety of top U.S. and international brands, serving as CMO of Nike-owned Cole Hahn, CEO of PRISM North America, a WPP sports & entertainment agency, Vice President of Marketing and Executive Creative Director at the National Football League, Consultant to Major League Baseball Productions and Vice President at Calvin Klein.

Capiraso lives in Manhattan with his wife and two daughters and is an avid runner himself, participating in approximately 20 NYRR races annually as well as a streak of completing the last 23 New York City Marathons.

“I look forward to working with Peter and the entire staff as we take the next step in the evolution of NYRR’s mission,” said Capiraso.  “With the support of our Board of Directors and our many stakeholders from runners to partners to city leaders, we are excited to build on the NYRR legacy and get more people of all ages to Run for Life.”

Peter Ciaccia – NYRR President, Events & TCS New York City Marathon Race Director

Now in his 14th year with NYRR, Ciaccia will move from his current role as Chief Production Officer to the newly created position of President, Events and will replace Wittenberg as the Race Director of the TCS New York City Marathon.  Ciaccia will oversee several areas including Event Development and Production, Broadcasting, Media Relations, Public Affairs, Professional Athletes, Volunteer and Community Engagement, Youth Events and the Athletes with Disabilities program.

Under Ciaccia’s leadership, NYRR’s events have grown to include 50 races annually, ranging from the TCS New York City Marathon to Kids runs throughout the five boroughs to the NYRR Five-Borough Series featuring the Airbnb Brooklyn Half, Bronx 10-Mile, Queens 10K, Staten Island Half, and United Airlines NYC Half.  Today, over 200,000 runners participate in NYRR races yearly, including a world record 50,530 at the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon.

Prior to joining NYRR, Ciaccia was a well-regarded music industry executive, working with CBS Records and Sony Music, and managed major artists and tours with his own talent and event production company.  The New York City resident was raised in the Bronx and is a passionate runner and endurance fitness enthusiast who has competed in various marathons, ultramarathons and trail-running events.

“NYRR’s events are the backbone of our mission-driven effort to get people of all ages moving towards a healthy lifestyle,” said Ciaccia.  “From New York City’s biggest block party, the TCS New York City Marathon, to events throughout the five boroughs for people of all ages, I am excited to get to work with Michael and our team and take NYRR to the next level.”

Both Capiraso and Ciaccia will join the Board of Directors.

Wittenberg will oversee her final event as NYRR President and CEO this Saturday, May 16 at the Airbnb Brooklyn Half.  Capiraso and Ciaccia will assume their new roles on Tuesday, May 19 following Wittenberg’s final day with the organization on May 18.

To learn more about New York Road Runners, visit

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