NYC’s First Marathon Winner, Now 80, Celebrates 50th Anniversary with Run through Central Park

Gary Muhrcke became the first New York City Marathon winner on September 13, 1970. Now he is 80, and to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his win, a took a lap around Central Park on September 13, 2020. The finish line was set up near Tavern on the Green.

Only 127 runners participated in the original marathon, and Muhrcke was among the 55 who finished – taking first place when he completed the 26.2 mile course in about 2.5 hours. Now, over 50,000 runners compete each year. Between 1970-1975, the race consisted of several loops around Central Park.

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In 1976, the first five-borough marathon took place.

In an interview with NY1, Muhrcke states that running was not a common sport back in the day, taking note of how it has evolved over time.

“That’s fantastic that you’ve got thousands of people running for their health. They’re running for a different reason than what we ran for. We didn’t run for our health. We ran to compete.”

Muhrcke is a former New York City fireman. In addition to winning the first marathon, he also won the first Empire State Building Run-Up in 1978 and was a two-time winner of the Yonkers Marathon.

While this year’s marathon has been cancelled due to the pandemic, there will be a virtual race between October 17 and November 1, which thousands of runners from around the world are expected to participate in.

The New York Road Runners website states that participants can run the 26.2 mile virtual marathon “anywhere, anytime between October 17 and November 1.”

More info about this year’s virtual marathon can be found at nyrr.org.

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