4 decades of running, sweat, friends (and a couple of beers)
It all began with a couple of cases of beer. The powers that be at the University of Toronto Track Club, which the founding members belonged to, refused to pony up for a couple of two-fours to accompany the bus ride home from the 1980 Ottawa Marathon. Well, that was it! After years of being second fiddle to the young whipper snappers in the club who got all the glory, while doing none of the fundraising, it was time to start a new club. This one would be different. It would strive to balance running and social activities and promote the equal treatment of runners of all abilities.
The founding members included Corey Gibson, Jack Friel, Roz Fulwell, Timo Uuksulainen, Dave Fujiwara, Charlie McCullough, Ron Flint and Bert de Vries. They bandied about a few names, Lakeshore Striders, Taddle Creek Runners and Longboat Roadrunners. Jack Friel, urged by his friend Bruce Kidd, Canadian running legend and Tom Longboat biographer, suggested the eventual club name. After much discussion and voting, Longboat Roadrunners, a unique, Canadian tribute to a national hero, was chosen.
The first decade was an exciting time for our club. The Running Boom flourished. Numbers were strong, needing to be capped at 200. Results were impressive. From the beginning, the club exuded its inclusiveness. Many Longboat traditions were established during this time, the Toronto Island Run, team events, meeting at University Settlement House, the newsletter and weekly trips to the pub. Some of the events have changed and the original meeting place, the Bev no longer exists, but bus trips and socializing are still an important part of the club today.
Conflict and change dominated the 90s. At the beginning, the economy was in decline, new running stores attracted runners with training clinics and membership numbers. Thanks to the efforts of many committed members, new traditions and practices were adopted. Bert initiated the club cross-country race, the Lyngs generously opened up their home for the Holiday party and buses of Longboat Roadrunners again showed up for the Tuscarora Field Day and Picnic 10k race. During this time, Saturday High Park runs were established. Our beloved race added the BBQ, a children’s fun run and a two person relay. In 1995, a relationship with the Longboat family was re-established and since then many of our Island Races have been graced by a Longboat family member.
Throughout the 2000s, Longboaters continued their stellar running. Charles Bedley won the 2001 Robbie Burns in 25:03, David Deubelbeiss set a 24-hour World record treadmill run (130.82 miles) and Michal Kapral set a 2:57 ‘joggling’ marathon world record. Nancy Wells was awarded the Ontario Masters Distance Athlete (Roads) of the year and Allen Groome ran 60 in 60 – 60 marathons by age 60. The Tom Longboat Roadrunners Award was established in conjunction with the University of Toronto Faculty of Physical Education and Health. This annual award is given to an intercollegiate athlete, preferably one that is an aboriginal long distance runner. The newsletter continued to evolve with a name change to Wildfire, Tom Longboat’s nickname given to him by sportswriters in his time.
Now 30 years old, the club keeps truckin’ along. Membership is on the rise. Our annual Toronto Island Run continues to sell out every year. The club’s coaching tradition continues and runners are working hard towards their goals. Bus loads of members travel to Robbie Burns and Around the Bay, stocked with traditional post race cheer. The club is blessed with members new and old, those who remind us of past tradition and through their example demonstrate enthusiasm, competitiveness and camaraderie; and those who continue to breathe new life, effort and ideas into the club.
We do all of this while continuing to honour the legacy of Tom Longboat every time we run.
Just wait and see!