Kuchar has lots of Volksmarch medals

Charley Najacht
Gary Kuchar of Custer has made the annual Crazy Horse Volksmarch a habit for nearly three decades and has the medals to prove it. The 82-year-old self-described “car nut” made the annual trek again last Sunday under windy conditions.
“It was a cold wind, but being a cool day it wasn’t so taxing,” he said. He and his wife, LuAnn, started at 11 a.m. “We thought it would warm up by then.”
He made his first 6.2-mile march up to the top of the monument in 1992 and said he didn’t purchase a medal that year “because I didn’t think I wanted to spend the money.” He estimated they only cost three or four dollars at the time.
He loosened the purse strings and now has amassed a collection of 26 medals. Along his nearly 30-year streak, he recalls that he only missed one year, “and that was because of a funeral in 1999,” he said. In 1998 he even did it twice, doing it on both Saturday and Sunday.
“One year, in 1998, my mother made the walk when she was 83. She is 105 now,” Kuchar said. “It took a little longer, quite a while actually,” he said with a smile. “Hopefully, I can do it next year to match her.” His sister from Kansas also joined them that year.
“It started as a challenge when I was in my early 50s. Once I got going I just wanted to make a tradition of it. I thought last year would be tough, but it turned out good,” he said.
“I slow down on the hills and the last hill on the road takes the sap out of you. I really use that walking stick,” Kuchar said.
“I guess sometimes you want those bragging rights. I aim to do it until I can't do it physically,” he said.
The weather hasn’t always cooperated. “One year I was doing the march with some friends. It was cold, drizzly, foggy and you couldn’t see Crazy Horse from the parking lot,” Kuchar said. He remembers some real hot days, also.
“I’ve never been called back because of lightning. I try to do it in the morning to avoid the lightning,” he said.
“I’ve never done a fall one, but since the first one was cancelled this year because of the virus, I did it on Sunday this year,” Kuchar said.
“It’s fun to talk to people along the way, just to be social. You see all kinds. Some are sweating and struggling and others pass you by jogging the whole way. There are kids and older people. You see a couple pushing a baby stroller, a dad with a child on his back or a woman carrying a child papose-style,” he said.
His wife often accompanies him. She started out with him, but has not done it in consecutive years.

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