Northport Gets Moo-ving: History of The Great Cow Harbor 10k

A Race Begun
The first Great Cow Harbor 10K took place in 1977. It was the brainchild of businessman, local resident, and avid runner John Rakucewicz, who thought Northport’s beautiful scenery would make a great location for a road race. The Northport Town Council recommended that the race be paired with the Grand Old-Fashioned Cow Harbor Day Parade, which had been established only a few years earlier in 1973.
The first race, organized by Rakucewicz and a team of dedicated volunteers under the aegis of the newly formed Northport Running Club, had 1,028 entries with 1,002 participants finishing the route. The winners received cow-shaped trophies; Louis Calvano won the best time, finishing the course in 31 minutes and 24 seconds.

John Rakucewicz leads a group of runners in the 1982 race

Changes and Growth

Very quickly the Cow Harbor 10K gained a reputation as a scenic and challenging foot race and became nationally ranked. In 1985, Northport Running Club committee member John Pitfick encouraged Rakucewicz to implement a staggered start to the race to help space the participants evenly across the hilly route.

In 1986, after almost a decade of increasingly time-consuming duties, Rakucewicz stepped down to focus on his business and family, and no race was held. A revamped Great Cow Harbor 10K Run Committee brought the competition back the following year, but their excitement was colored by great sadness when John Pitfick died suddenly.
The 1987 race was dedicated to Pitfick and raised money for college scholarships for his two sons.

The winners of last year's race: Futsum Zienasellassie, Anne-Marie Blaney, Vivien Lim- Masters Female; Christopher Naimoli- Masters Male

An International Event with Hometown Spirit
In 1988, the Cow Harbor 10K was named the Road Runners Club of America’s New York State Championship Race. Everyone from local amateurs to international Olympians have won it; 1980s British Olympian Steve Binns won the race twice in 1981 and 1984. There have been participants and winners from many countries including Zimbabwe, Mexico, Morocco, Kenya, and Canada (although in current in-person events only U.S. citizens can participate). Many of these visitors are hosted by Northport residents who welcome them into their homes for race weekend.

In 2019, the Northport Historical Society honored the race committee at our annual gala and installed a commemorative plaque at the finish line in front of the former hardware store at 90 Main Street.

The Great Cow Harbor 10K Race has become a beloved annual Village tradition. Over the years the Cow Harbor 10K Race Committe has supported charitable organizations such as the Lewis Oliver Farm, the Veterans Administration, the Special Olympics and the local food pantry.

In 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the committee hosted an online Virtual Run from September 15th until November 30th, allowing people to participate from anywhere in the world and benefiting the Northwell Health Foundation in the support of front-line workers. It was only the third time in the race's history that there was no large crowd on Main Street. The first time the race was canceled was in 1986 when the committee was reorganizing, and the second was in September 2001 in the wake of the September 11th attacks.

This year the Northport Historical Society will be selling reproductions of the original 1977 race t-shirt, as well as other Cow Harbor Race themed merch, on our front lawn at 215 Main Street. We can't wait to see you there.

Original Cow Harbor Race shirt in white, reproduction in blue.

The Photo Collection

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