Gary Muhrcke will be leaving his Super Runners Shop behind when he retires at the end of the year, but he won’t be leaving Huntington. Or running.
He’ll also always carry with him his legacy as the winner of the first-ever New York City Marathon no matter where he goes.The city marathon now draws tens of thousands of runners; the first, in 1970, drew 127, and Gary Muhrcke told the New York Times in 1994 that he had signed up for the race only 15 minutes before it started.
The 80-year-old Huntington resident, consistently described as “nice” or “humble” or “just one of the guys,” also won the first Empire State Building Run-Up, a grueling race from ground level to the 86th-floor observation deck.
The Brooklyn native’s plans include heading out West this winter to enjoy some skiing but he and his wife, Jane, will be remaining in Huntington. “I’m staying here. this is God’s country,” he said. He also plans to continue his running, which just recently included a run with a handful of other senior runners through Central Park.
Mike Polansky, president of the Greater Long Island Running Club, said, ” Gary has been one of the pillars of the Long Island running community as long as there has been such a community. Even before he opened his first store in Huntington, he would be travelling around Eisenhower Park and other running “hotbeds” with his Van (Super Shoe on Parade, I think it was called) full of running shoes and other running stuff.
“He has quite a record – winning the first NYC Marathon and the first Empire State Building Run-Up, but he has never been anything but “one of the guys” – laid back, unassuming and unpretentious – but with a wealth of knowledge, experience and common sense know-how about running that nobody else that I know can match.”
He is grateful for his successes, including how his business grew from the early days of selling shoes out of a van, and thrived even as downtown Huntington and retail sales changed.
“Thank you, thank you, to the runners of Huntington. They’ve helped us have a great living in a great town. We started out of a truck,” he said. “We never realized we could make such a going business out of it,” he said.”It’s been a great run. When I reached 79, I realized, ‘Wow. That was some career.’ ”
His daughter, Heidi, runs the business at the moment.
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