Gary Muhrcke glided across the makeshift finish line in Central Park near Tavern on the Green Sunday to mark completion of one lap around the park.
“It’s not an easy course,” Muhrcke, 80, said.
It’s a route he knows well. Muhrcke ran it 50 years ago when 4 laps made up most of the course for first New York City marathon on September 13, 1970.
That year, 127 runners raced each other. Only 55 finished. Muhrcke was the champion, completing the 26.2 miles in 2:31:39.
“I still think this is a very tough course. I can’t believe doing four laps,” he said.
Muhrcke’s grandson, Colin Kern, 24, joined him in the commemorative lap.
“I think it’s the coolest thing happening this year,” Kern said.
Since it’s inception, the TCS New York City Marathon’s popularity has grown along with enthusiasm for the sport. New York Road Runners, the group organizing the annual race, says more than 50,000 runners from around the world meet in New York every year to run through the city’s 5 boroughs.
It’s become a bucket list goal for many. An organizer said roughly 200,000 join a lottery hoping to get picked for an opportunity to run the race.
“Oh, yeah, everyone wants to run the New York City marathon,” said Caity Conklin, a runner in park Sunday. She was cheering for friends who jogged by on the trail as they completed the virtual Boston Marathon.
On what would have been the 50th running of the NYC Marathon, the pandemic is forcing the event’s cancellation. The race was also canceled in 2012 after Superstorm Sandy.
A virtual race will be held instead for thousands of runners from around the world October 17-November 1.
“Just get out and do it,” said Muhrcke about running. “Start slow but if I can encourage anyone to get up off the couch and just do it. Everyday we wake up and somethings hurting. The day that nothing hurts is the day you check yourself out.”