By Ric D. Robinette
(This article in part is condensed from two interviews and articles previously published describing Joe Arrazola’s involvement in the Colorado running community.)
Part 1: Formation of the Club
When running enthusiast Joe Arrazola moved to Denver in 1956 there were only two races open to “all-comers”, the Rocky Mountain AAU cross country and the RMAAU track and field championships.
His first efforts were the organization of all-comers track meets at DU on Friday nights. The parent club from which RMRR evolved was founded in 1959 by Joe Arrazola, with assistance from John Blank. The club which he founded adopted the name of The Denver Track Club, a name which is still in existence in the Denver area today. (Different individuals have suggested that the club actually began in 1960 or 1961, and there is some limited written data to suggest these dates may be correct. However, Joe states the formation was in 1959 during two different interviews so that is the year we are going with.) The club generally adhered to the standard format of running clubs of the time, i.e. track clubs affiliated with and heavily regulated by the AAU. People who were not involved in the running community before the early 1960’s probably have little or no concept of the AAU’s control and influence at that time.
Joe was an outstanding runner and dedicated leader for the club. Joe served as president of the DTC from 1959-1966. He was present at most of the club sanctioned races in the early years, though not always as a runner. Joe was frequently performing the function of race director or in some other official capacity. He and other club officers did frequently ask for volunteers to serve in this capacity so they could run in some of the races, but rarely did anyone step forward. In the very early years, the club had extremely limited financial resources. Nonetheless, Joe was committed to offering Rocky Mountain Region AAU (RMAAU) track and road racing championship races. Races were regularly held at Washington Park and Arapaho High School. The infamous “one more lap around Washington Park” loop holds the honor of being the oldest fully certified AAU road course in the United States.
Most races in that era were sparsely attended. The runners and race walkers who participated were primarily elite and regionally outstanding athletes. Few others became involved as it was not the politically correct thing to do at that time. A little known fact to most of the runners of the early years was that the cost of putting on such sparsely attended races was such a strain on the club’s treasury that Joe sometimes financed the race expenses out of his own pocket. In recognition of Joe’s dedication and contribution to Rocky Mountain regional racing, the DTC 5 mile race was renamed the “Joe Arrazola 5 Miler” by Dennis Kavanaugh and Ted Cutler. It was held every year until it was discontinued in the mid-1980’s. For many years, this race was frequented by the Rocky Mountain region’s fastest runners in honor of Joe’s efforts.
The idea of handicap racing was conceived in 1960 in order to draw interest from the “average runner”. The DTC’s development of a handicap racing series was an important part of the club’s schedule and a significant difference from other clubs across the country of that era. This unusual concept received some national recognition from AAU. It also ultimately set the stage for a polarization and split of the club several years later. This of course resulted in the formation of the Rocky Mountain Road Runners.