New York City Marathon’s first winner retraces race course 50 years later


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Muhrcke, with his grandson Colin Kern by his side, ran one ceremonial lap around the six-mile Central Park loop on Sunday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the marathon. The park’s loop made up the entire race course in 1970. He did so with a time of 58 minutes and 21 seconds, according to a press release from New York Road Runners, a non-profit running organization that was on hand to watch Muhrcke cross the “finish line.”

To win in 1970, participants had to run around the loop four times, according to the New York Road Runners. The course in recent years has spanned all five New York City boroughs.

When Muhrcke ran the first iteration of the marathon on September 13, 1970, only 55 of the 127 runners completed the race. His final time that day was two hours, 31 minutes and 39 seconds, New York Road Runners said in its release.

Last year, the New York City Marathon — which now bills itself as the “world’s largest” — saw more than 53,000 participants cross the finish line. What would have been the 50th running of the marathon in 2020 was canceled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Muhrcke says he still exercises every day

Muhrcke, a former New York City firefighter who now lives in Huntington, New York, spoke to news outlets on Sunday about his experience running the course again. When asked what he thinks about the difference between the race in 1970 and now, Muhrcke said, “I still think this is a very tough course.”

Muhrcke said he still exercises in some way every day and said “I think that if I stopped running, I’d probably die.”

“I’m a little bit depressed that I’m as old as I am but I’m going to continue to run as long as I can,” he said.

Muhrcke told reporters it was an honor his grandson, who was in North Carolina, “came up just to run with me.”

When asked about the pandemic’s effect on the race and running in general, he said there’s no excuse not to exercise because of it.

“I think the pandemic has given us an opportunity to focus on ourselves and just doing it without going to a gym,” he said. “You can still do it, you can probably do it better, you can probably do it more, you can probably have more time to do it. Just do more.”

After a legacy centered on running, Muhrcke was asked what he hopes others take from his running.

“If I can inspire anybody to get up off the couch, that’s my goal in life,” he said.

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