George Erkmann, athlete, author and founding member of the New Hyde Park-Mineola Runners Club, has died.
Laid to rest last Friday at the age of 86 years old, Erkmann died on May 30th after starting the club in 1976. He designed courses for races in New Hyde Park and brought members to international events such as the New York City Marathon and the Boston Marathon.
Erkmann was a computer and software engineer at the American electronics company Sperry Corporation. He was also president of the Sperry Athletic Club, where he passionately advocated for staying fit.
Also a writer, Erkmann authored the book Alive and Running, a beginners guide to safely enjoying the sport. After its publication in 2012, he joked about writing a sequel entitled Alive and Still Running.
Before his death, Erkmann had run over 51,000 miles in at least 38 marathons, according to his book’s biography. Having worn out more than 100 pairs of shoes, he was laid to rest in his favorite pair.
“Determination to stay with it, to stay with the race, to always do the best you can,” said Scott Fairgrieve, a board member of the NHP-Mineola Runners Club. “That’s what George taught you.”
One of the reasons the club continues its activities is because of the mindset set by Erkmann, according to Fairgrieve, who is serving at two-year term as the Mineola Village justice after winning election in September. “Always help one another, be there for one another, have determination and the attitude of being there for somebody.”
Harold Axelrod is the current president of the New Hyde Park-Mineola Runners Club. He knew Erkmann for nearly two decades.
“It was his analytical mind and his care not only for the sport but also for the team,” Axelrod said about Erkmann’s character. “His concept was that the team always came first.”
In 2008, Axelrod was pulled from the water during an Ironman Triathlon in Lake Placid. Erkmann was the second person Axelrod called.
“Let’s move on, let’s figure out what it is and fix it and get you better,” Erkmann said to Axelrod. “That’s the type of person George Erkmann was. He never let anything get you down.”
Erkmann was also an active member of the club in activities besides running, such as preparing for marathons, even driving the bus to the starting line.
“George and I used to say up till late at night putting the race packets together,” Axelrod said. “It wasn’t until his wife said ‘Enough already, get out of here.’”
The New Hyde Park-Mineola Runners Club is one of the oldest running clubs on Long Island. Its signature race, the NHP 8k Championship, is also among the most vintage races downstate.