RMRR Club History

Part 2: The First Ten Years: 1959-1969

I have struggled for several weeks trying to decide how to address this decade of the club’s history. The differences between running clubs with AAU sanctioned races then versus the casual and recreational running environment of today is quite extreme. Because of the rivalry and never the twain shall meet attitude of the AAU and the Road Runners Club of America during the 1960’s, our club (and many others across the country) operated under two different names simultaneously-ie., the DTC and the RMRR. Clubs used one name for membership with one of the sanctioning organizations and the other name for membership with the other. Unless you were personally involved in racing at that time, the entire system will probably be somewhat difficult to believe. At the same time, this period is nostalgic in my own running history.

For example, the running clubs were typically composed of a small group of competitive runners and race walkers who regularly competed against other clubs and schools for individual and team titles and championships. Club membership was more closely akin to competing for a high school team or college team. Can you imagine an annual RMRR versus University of Colorado cross country meet? Well, there was such an annual meet, and the RMRR team members were sometimes rewarded with a free Colorado home football game ticket. How do you suppose RMRR would fare in such a meet today?

The local track clubs and regional and national AAU groups served the running community by organizing various track and road races. There were practically no other races. When you registered for a track or road race you identified your club affiliation, and, of course, verified your AAU affiliation. Membership in the DTC also included membership in the AAU. In the late 1960’s the DTC members wore the club uniform of gold running shorts and a blue singlet. The club name and logo shield was mounted on the front center of the singlet and your AAU membership shield could be mounted on the upper left corner. I wonder how many of these club uniforms are still around in somebody’s closet.

The AAU rigorously policed amateur running (and there was no other type in the United States then). Even the acceptance of a pair of running shoes as a prize could eliminate a runner’s amateur status and bring your career to an end. The enforcement of the widely disliked strict amateur requirements penalized many individuals. However, it did provide some direct financial benefit to running clubs, including the DTC. Any high school or college track or cross country coach that wanted to remain eligible to compete as an amateur runner could not accept their salary for such coaching functions. That would have made them a professional athlete by the standards of that time. Thus they were forced to donate their salaries for these coaching positions to outside organizations. The DTC was periodically the beneficiary of such donations and this helped keep down the costs of club dues. I have my own similar story from that time period. After taking classes and associated tests to obtain junior high and high school level umpire and referee licenses, I was forced to give them up. I found out that if I began working in this capacity and accepted any payment as an umpire I would have been declared a professional athlete and would have been ineligible to continue to participate in collegiate sports. The Times They Are a Changing.

The system of amateur status and the clubs providing financial support to their own club members led to considerable debate among many track clubs, including the DTC. During this period our club was blessed with some nationally ranked competitors, including at least one US record holder. At that time, one of the primary functions of the clubs throughout the country was to generate financial support and funding to send their elite competitors around the region and the country for competition n the sanctioned races. This meant that a few members were the primary beneficiaries of the majority of many clubs’ treasury. Thus the age-old debate. Is the purpose of a running club to benefit the majority or to support a select few representing the club name? This very issue resulted in more than one instance of the resignation of club officers. This debate ultimately directly lead to a separate Rocky Mountain Road Runners club, and the formation of our club doctrines founded upon the principles of providing an organization to benefit the maximum number of competitors of all abilities. This transition will be discussed in Part 3.

Club members that regularly held officer positions in the DTC and the RMAAU, and provided the leadership and volunteer efforts to keep the club functioning during this decade included Joe Arrazola, Dennis Kavanaugh, Floyd Godwin, Art Caldwell, and Fred Chippindale.

1959-1969 period highlights:

The Denver Track Club was founded in 1959 by running enthusiast Joe Arrazola. Running is already an established local sport at that time with races such as the Pike’s Peak Marathon in its 4th year.

1959-1969: Other track clubs and schools in the area providing regular competition for the DTC in the individual and team oriented RMAAU races were the Colorado TC, the Boulder TC, the Fort Collins TC, the Alamosa TC, the Southern Colorado Striders, the West Kansas TC, the Cornhuskers TC, and local university teams. In reality, several of the noted track clubs were heavily affiliated with their local university athletic programs.

January 1969: The DTC began publishing a monthly newsletter that has now continued for 26 years (34 years as of 2003).

January 1969: A decision was made to supplement the club treasury by selling shirts. In order to reach a larger market than just DTC members, it was decided to have the phrase “Rocky Mt. Road Runners” printed on the shirt with “the symbol of our majestic Rockies in the center of the shirt”. From my research I have not been able to determine why this symbol was used then, but it may be the first use of our current club name and logo together. Cost: $1.50 for members, $2.00 for non-members.

1969 was the first year the club sponsored over 50 running and race walking events. The club sponsored 52 races of various types that year.