We spoke to the winner of the first New York City Marathon in 1970, he put his victory down to luck.
At the 2008 edition of the New York City Marathon, we spoke with the winner of the very first edition of this great road race, back in 1970. His name is Gary Muhrcke, and he remembers the day like it was yesterday. "I think it's the most inspirational thing most people will ever do, to run a marathon."
The first New York City Marathon was held on September 13, 1970. On that day, a total of 127 runners ran a course of four loops around Central Park. Only 55 of them crossed the finish line. From these humble beginnings the NYC Marathon grew into one of the world's great road races. The 2008 edition attracted over 38,000 runners and millions of spectators.
The first winner
At the 2008 edition, we spoke with Gary Muhrcke, winner of the first NYC marathon in a time of 2:31:38. The fact that he ended up in the book of records to him was just "a stroke of luck". A former firefighter, today Muhrcke owns a number of Super Runner stores and represents ASICS at the NYC Marathon Expo.
By all accounts few people noticed the marathon on that autumn day almost 40 years ago. Just a couple people running in the park, and only about a hundred spectators to cheer them on. Among the 127 entrants there was only one woman, named Nina Kuscsik, but she had to drop out of the race due to illness. (Compare that to 2008, when 35% of the runners were female!)
As Muhrcke recalls, "There was no water on the course, except for what your wife handed you as you came around every six miles."
As the NYC Marathon has changed over the years, so have the shoes worn by the athletes. In both cases it's probably more accurate to say they've undergone a complete metamorphosis. Today's shoes, for instance, are lighter, last much longer and have more cushioning. Muhrcke remembers the shoes he wore in the 1970 race: Onitsuka Tigers, the predecessors to today's ASICS shoes.
The Second Winner
While Muhrcke will always be remembered as the first winner of the NYC Marathon, who was the winner of the second edition? Not surprisingly from a marathon expert, Muhrcke remembers his name...
Indeed, it was Norman Higgins who won the second NYC Marathon, in a time of 2:22:54. And he still has a record to his name: his margin of victory (10:27) remains the largest in the history of the men's race.