Wednesday, March 30, 2016

V. 1 #6 Run and Walk History of the First Two Decades of the 20th Century


As a new century began, local running in walking events were limited. However, one was able to see indoor track meets, which were hosted by the Central YMCA, at the Freeman Avenue Armory.  The Armory, just up from the present day Job Corps Center building, was a few doors north of Ezzard Charles Drive near the entrance to the Museum Center.

The first known local road race took place on Thanksgiving Day on November 26, 1908. 18 individuals finished the 7-mile distance and three dropped out. Lovell Draper’s time of 37:15 won the first edition. He was victorious the subsequent four years.  Draper held the record for the most number of wins by any one male until decades later John Sence came in front six times.  Julie Isphording has the record for most victories with eight. 


Sebastian Linehan, a top race walker of the day, founded the local chapter of the American Walkers Association in 1916.  By the end of the decade, of all the chapters nationwide, the Cincinnati chapter had the greatest attendance. The organization is still

active today and meets weekly for walks. Other organizations at that time were the Walkers Club of Greater Cincinnati, Cincinnati Gym Walkers Club, and Young Business Men’s Club. 

Since walking was such a popular activity, there were articles in the Enquirer and other newspapers each week devoted to hikers and the locales that they visited. Rosters of the participants and a description of the walks noted each week’s activity. A large turnout was present on any given weekend. 

Race walking received quite a bit of attention at that time.  In order that everyone abided by the same standards, proper race walking rules were published.

Due to World War I, the Thanksgiving Day Race 
was not held in 1918.

A prestigious 10-mile walking race took place on Labor Day in Indianapolis. Articles described the chances of the local participants and the results. 

In 1919 the Thanksgiving Day Race went from the Ft. Thomas Armory to the Central YMCA, which was at the corner of Elm and Canal. The Y was the race sponsor back then. One needed to pass a physicians test in order to participate.  The field consisted of 19 runners and nine walkers. Handicap starts were utilized and Frank Martin of Chicago, official handicapper of the AAU, did the honors.

Near the end of the decade the American Walkers Association celebrated its third anniversary.  A bit of the mission and history of the organization is noted here.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

V. 1 #5  Being a Heart Mini Race Volunteer
by Mark Jones

I ran several of the early Heart Mini-Marathons, helped on a bunch of them, and served on the Race Committee for a number of years as the unofficial representative of the City of Cincinnati, my employer.

First my confession:  I was the 'helper' that grabbed the wrong card sequence and messed up the recording of the finishers of the first Mini-Marathon.  I clearly remember a table on Fountain Square and multiple lines of finishers and 'believing' that I was expediting processing by passing out the cards on that table.  I had finished the race and knew everyone had to have a card and so stepped in to help out..... But in retrospect, could this or any other 'helper' mistake have made the situation any worse.  Well, that's my story and I am sticking to it!!

And as I recall, that race morning started out badly when Mike Boylan dropped his car keys in his office building elevator and they slipped thru the crack into the elevator shaft.  Or was that some other pre race morning when Mike was caught up the preparation frenzy?

I got the Kid's Run started in 1981.  The kids ran around the block of Convention Center with volunteers spaced around on the sidewalk.  I was terrified that some kid would fall down into the street and traffic, but so far as I know, all survived.  We had a party for the kids inside afterwards and Kroger generously donated drinks, cookies, etc.  It was an easy event to get volunteers to help out.

At some point, I started managing the press truck and for several years roared down Columbia Parkway with a load of press and photographers.  It was exciting to see the top runners and the race competition unfold.  

There were annual mini-crises over a number of years when the City and City police tallied up the cost of all the police protection on race day.  We went back and forth with City Council questioning whether the Mini (and other races) should pay for police protection, some part of the cost, or the City should absorb in as its contribution to a huge municipal event.  

Gosh, how many nights did many of us stuff bags of numbers, t-shirts, etc. at the Oak Street Heart Association offices?  And how many times did I cringe with alarm when I saw runners in the pre-race weeks jogging out and back on Columbia Parkway that had no shoulder or sidewalks..... 

I still have several earlier framed Heart Mini-Marathon posters, autographed by John Maggard and, I think, one by Bill Rodgers - these and many recollections are benefits from volunteering.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

V. 1 #4 Early Heart Mini Memories

V. 1 #4     Early Heart Mini Memories
by Tim Schilling (former Executive Director of the Cincinnati American Heart Association)

In thinking back over the history of the Heart Mini-Marathon, the first thought is that of April 1978, shortly after the first event that March, when Bob MacVeigh and I traveled to Boston for the Boston Marathon to see the event, and hopefully talk with elite runners about coming to run in future Mini-Marathons.  It was amazing to see the crowds, the excitement, and the way it captivated Boston.  That experience caused the hope that perhaps the Heart Mini-Marathon would achieve the longevity and quality that would also captivate Cincinnati.  Little did I realize that thirty five years later I would be reminiscing about those years, and how the event has become such a success for the American Heart Association, the City of Cincinnati, and its citizens in becoming aware of the importance of cardiovascular fitness through diet and exercise, and the dollars raised for cardiovascular research.

One of the first employees I hired was Karen Niemeyer, nee Jaspers.  She became one of the main ingredients of the Mini, working with volunteers, the city, leading committee meetings and logistics.  You name it Karen did it and was well respected by staff and volunteers.  And she did it well for 30 races.  Over the years, I would always refer to her as the “mother” of the Mini because of the way she nourished it and watched over it. 

 A key ingredient to the initial, and continuing success, was the first group of volunteers who helped lead the event, enjoyed their experience, and continued to volunteer in subsequent years striving for improvement and driving for a top quality event.  That first volunteer was Jack Kirschner, MD an internist, and exercise guru.  Jack was a board member of the AHA, Southwest Chapter, and agreed to become the Race Director, and was untiring in his effort and work on the event.  Jack, who passed away a little over a year ago, was a wonderful individual, gentleman, and physician and became a good friend.  Late one evening at the Heart Office, a couple of weeks prior to Mini-Marathon 1, volunteers were stuffing envelopes to the pre-registered participants.  After, all had left, except some staff and Jack, we started to pack up the mailing to take to the post office, when Jack spoke up and told the staff to put them in his car, while saying, “let me take the mailing because you all have been working too hard.”  Here was an individual who had seen patients all day, was a volunteer, and yet was concerned about the staff.  His leadership, class, and charisma helped to lead the first race.  Jack would later become President of the Cincinnati Chapter.

The Clifton Track Club, led by Mike Boylan, was an important ingredient in that first race.  Their knowledge of the mechanics of putting a race on, and their corps of volunteers was invaluable prior to, during and after the event.  Also in the fall of 1977 as word began to spread about upcoming spring event, someone would say, “do you know who you should speak with is…”  Out of that came Bob MacVeigh, who worked for Federated and had transferred to Cincinnati.  While in Boston, he had been an Assistant Race Director of the Boston Marathon, and readily agreed to join the planning committee.  Bob, who subsequently served as Race Director of Mini-Marathon 2 and thirteen other Minis, became a long time Heart board member, and faithful volunteer.  A board member and Treasurer, Jim Roche suggested that Pete Wilton be contacted, saying that he had given up smoking, taken up running, and “had many contacts in Cincinnati.  Pete would go on to serve as Assistant Race Director for many years, became Chairman of the Board of the Heart Chapter, and served as a volunteer until number 26.  Those individuals, in particular were key to the initial success and its subsequent growth.

Pete Wilton (l) with Richard Hanauer                                          Bob MacVeigh                          

The race committee felt that the event needed a “name” runner, and through Bob we contacted Bill Rodgers who had won Boston several times and reached an agreement with him to participate.  In the fall of 1977, a news conference was called to announce that the Cincinnati Heart Mini-Marathon would run its inaugural event in March of 1978 and that Bill Rodgers would be participating, who participated in the news conference by phone.  

Bill Rodgers signing posters at the Heart Mini Clinic

In order to better promote the event, most thought that we needed a poster.  Pete Wilton told me that he knew the owner of Cato Johnson, a local ad agency, and inquired about their interest in helping us.  Pete later reported that they would be able to do the work and that their artist, Ward Mulroy, would design it.   His work resulted in the poster of seven or eight drawings of a runner during the running motion, with the last drawing of the runner holding the Heart and Torch logo of the American Heart Association. 

   For years after, that running motion was used as a “signature” of the Mini-Marathon.

One of the ideas to making money from the event was to approach businesses selling “running advertising,” and encouraging employee fitness in return for a $1000 contribution to Heart.  In return, the company could enter 20 participants and have the name of their company on the backs of the participants’ shirts.  Since each participant would receive a Mini-Marathon shirt with his or her entry fee, a shirt supplier had to be found.  Pete Wilton, who “knew everyone “, suggested that we speak with Bill Reilly, owner of Velva Sheen.  An appointment was made to discuss
shirts being supplied by Mr. Reilly’s company. I remember nervously walking in and being led to his office and introducing myself to him.  I began to explain the event. Each participant would receive a shirt and companies could be a sponsor for $1000.  Interrupting me several times, asking questions, he finally asked how many sponsors we had lined up.  I had to confess, “none,” when he again interrupted to say, “I would like to have Velva Sheen be your first sponsor, and had a check written for $1000.  Thanking him profusely, I left on a high, thinking, “This is easy.” How, little did I know!

The Race Committee decided that the runners' shirts would be packed in individual bags that would have all the information the participants needed.  This necessitated volunteers packing those bags for the anticipated 1000 runners.  These bags were then placed in boxes, which the staff had naively planned to load in their private vehicles on Sunday morning to be transported to the Carew Tower where participants could pick up their bags, and people could continue to register.  Boxes were everywhere in the Heart office. On the Thursday prior to the race, an individual came into the office late that day to register for the event.  Looking around he inquired how we were transporting all the material downtown.  When told the staff was doing it, he replied that he owned a trucking company and that he would have a driver and a truck at the office to load the truck, transport it to the Carew Tower and that “the driver would be with us until the end.”  That was our introduction to Dick Thomas, owner of Priority Dispatch.  Priority, and its drivers have served each Mini-Marathon.  Dick was also a key volunteer over the years.  Today, his son, Jeff and daughter, Julie continue his work

The morning of the event, registration and packet pick up opened about 10 A.M. and it was crazy from the start.  As the one o’clock start time neared, registrants were throwing money on the table saying, “I don’t care if I get a number, I just want to run.”  By the time the gun went off, the 800-900 participants we were hoping for had swelled to nearly two thousand. 

The race course, started at the corner of Fifth and Vine, current site of the Westin Hotel, went North on Vine to Central Parkway and out to what is now Cincinnati State University, turned around and came back to Walnut and finished on Sixth and Walnut.  As the start of the race neared, the runners were lined from Fifth Street south on Vine, and past Fourth Street.  Channel 9 televised the event, and their truck was parked on Vine, heading south across from Fountain Square.

When the gun went off, it was an incredible sight to see with this mass of humanity, starting out in a crawl, heading up Vine.  Jerry Springer, then Mayor of Cincinnati, got caught up in the excitement, and jumped in with the runners, and ran the race in winged tipped shoes.  In speaking with him later, his legs were extremely sore, he confessed.  As runners headed out Central Parkway, many caught a glimpse of Bill Rodgers heading back towards the finish, shouted encouragement as he passed.
As the rest of the runners started to head back and neared the finish, the first couple of hundred had times recorded as they crossed the finish line.  But, as the majority of runners headed down Walnut, several blocks north of the finish line, our finish line process began to back up due to the unexpected large number.  Soon runners were at a standstill, as they waited patiently to finish.  Unfortunately, the vast number of runners didn’t receive times. But almost all, didn’t seem to mind, and were pleased that they finished.  Fortunately, it was a forgiving group!

The next morning the Cincinnati Enquirer ran a front-page picture of the start, which we were told was the largest picture on the front page run by the Enquirer since the end of World War II. (Terry Armor was the Enquirer photographer. Ed.)

That year, the American Heart Association raised just over $16,000 for cardiovascular research.  The goal for this year’s event is $2.2 million dollars.
In spite of the finish line foul up, most all were positive in their feedback, and the race committee began to plan for the second Mini.

Unfortunately, Ward Mulroy, and Cato Johnson were not able to do the poster for the second race.  However, once again Pete Wilton had gotten to know a young artist, John Maggard, who was working for an ad agency downtown, and whose name I can’t remember.  John readily agreed to work on the poster.  Bob MacVeigh, Pete, and I thought it would be some adaptation of the first year.  When John had finished, the three of us went to John’s office for the unveiling.  When he took the paper off of the artwork, there was hushed, embarrassed silence, as we looked at a huge heart with
wings on it.  We diplomatically tried to tell John that it wasn’t quite what we had in mind.  He responded, saying that a poster should be art that causes the viewer to examine it more closely, and would therefore be remembered.  That began the long relationship with John Maggard who has been the artist for 32 posters.  Because of work commitments in two of the years when he was unable to commit to Heart, he lined up Loren Long, who has become a famous artist in his own right.  The artwork has become an important piece in the Heart Mini-Marathon.  Both of those artists have had their artwork honored and recognized on a national level. Their kind generosity would have cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars had the Heart Association had to pay for their services

Over the years, there have been changes and additions, and I will highlight some of them.

Since that first race, the race has taken place on Columbia Parkway with the current course with a couple of changes when work was being done on the Parkway, with the most difficult change going up Gilbert Avenue through Eden Park, down to Columbia Parkway, then east to a turn, and back the same way.  Unfortunately, the year that occurred, the temperature that day was in the high 70’s. That was probably the most work the medical team had to do as a result of dehydration.  As a matter of fact one participant, who was being taken by ambulance to the hospital, broke out of the ambulance as it exited I-75 at Hopple Street as a result of being delirious.  Fortunately, over thirty-four years there have been no deaths or serious injuries.  However, the preparation done by the Heart Medical team has helped to insure that any individual in medical need will receive excellent care.

The event has had five race directors: Jack Kirschner, MD, Bob MacVeigh, Melany Stinson, Roy Gerber, and John Lineman.

Name speakers and participants have included: Bill Rodgers, Jack Fultz, Patty Lyons, Bob Hall, who was our first wheel chair participant, Bill Squires, who coached Rodgers, Hal Higdon, who wrote for Runners World, Marty Liquori, Katherine Switzer, Jock Sempel, who was the long time race director of the Boston Marathon, George Sheehan, Amby Burfoot, Joe Henderson of Runners World, Frank Shorter, Jim Ryun, Grete Waitz, Joan Benoit Samuelson, Billy Mills, Mary Decker Slaney, Bruce Jenner, Sir Roger Bannister, the first sub four minute miler.  Several of those individuals are Olympic Champions.

Larry Whiteside accepting his award from Sir Roger Bannister

Except for year one, the next fourteen races would be run in four heats, with the first mass start since year one taking place in 1993, with race 16.

In 1984 and 1986, when the races were run in heats, women started first.

The first Kids Fun Run began with Heart Mini-Marathon 4 in 1981. 

The first walk component too place in 1987, with Heart Mini-Marathon 10.

The 5K component began with race 17.  With the walk, 5k and 15k, over 6000 individuals participated

With Heart Mini-Marathon 20, the 2k Kids run began

Mini-Marathon 34 added the half marathon

Thursday, March 3, 2016

V.1 #3 Behind the Scenes Action at the First Heart Mini-Marathon

V.1 #3   Behind the Scenes Action at the First Heart Mini-Marathon
by Mike Boylan

The First (1978) Heart Mini-Marathon turned out to be one big heartburn for Bob MacVeigh and me.

Left photo - Mike Boylan; Right photo Bob MacVeigh (l) and Don Wahle (r)

The first "running boom" race in Cincinnati was the 1977 Memorial Day Race, with just short of 500 runners.  The finish label snafu at that race has been discussed elsewhere, but we realized we could not handle even that number of runners with the conventional finish chute procedures from cross-country races.

When Bob Mac finagled me into being co-race director, we set (what we thought was an ambitious) goal of 1500 runners.  We realized that handling that many runners, even at 15K, was going to be difficult.  I recall going to see the finish of the Dayton River Corridor Classic and observing their finish line, which we decided to mimic and adapt.  Essentially finish cards were paired with runner IDs attached to the running bib, which were then stapled together and sent to the processing center.  We had recruited 25 finish line helpers to process the runners.  Mark Jones and Sally Doyen were two of our key people. 

The "computer" service that the Heart Association hired assured us that results could be generated quickly.  What did we know? 

We were also self-impressed with our acquisition of the race timer/printer, which would automate the timing and be accurate to .1 second!  HA!

A week before the race, the Heart Association told us that there were already 1800 runners registered.  Gulp! 

Also the week before the race, there was a significant storm that left a good 5-8" of ice and snow on the sidewalks of Central Parkway.   This was critical, since the returning runners were supposed to run on the sidewalks.   On the Friday and Saturday before the race, we were out on Central Parkway with picks, sledge hammers and shovels trying to break up the ice on the sidewalks.  John Frick, Pat Harrell, and (I think) Harold Shuck were part of that demolition party. 

On the morning of the race, there were several discouraging developments:
First, Bob Mac informed me that he was running in the race, and I was on my own at the finish line. 
Second, highway maintenance decided to open a pit on Vine Street in front of the Library, four blocks from the start at Fifth Street.   Vine is only four narrow lanes wide at that point, and the excavation was a lane and a half.  Panic!  That eventually was resolved before the 1 PM start.  

It was chaos at the starting line and in the Carew Tower arcade.  It was impossible to register all of the runners, so there were an estimated thousand bandits and an estimated total of 3500.    The Athletes Foot had provided bags to check gear.  The runners were instructed to pass the bags to the curb minutes before the start.   Unfortunately, runners on the east side of Vine decided that meant to throw their bags over the fence protecting the excavation for the new Westin Hotel construction.  I could see bags flying over the fence.  That was the first of several sinking feelings that day.

There was no one to start the timing watches for split timers on the course, so Jan Boylan and I and another helper parked my brown VW Rabbit a block up the course, caught the start, and began racing up the course.  As I got to the excavation, now covered with big metal plates, there were cones in the middle of the street.   I tried to slalom while yelling to get the cones out of the road, but one caught under the Rabbit, and remained there for the entire journey up Central Parkway and back.  The exhaust system continued to burn off the plastic for several weeks. 

I felt better when I returned to the finish area.  The finish line was directly under the skywalk on Walnut.  Jan Boylan and a group of manual timers and bench markers were ready on the Skywalk, and our finish crew was feeling ready.  

Bill Rogers finished first and we were doing fine for about the first 100 finishers.  At about 250, things started backing up.  We just put our heads down and tried to carry on.   At some point I went up to the Skywalk to see how the timers were doing.   Jan said they were having trouble deciding when someone was crossing the line.   I am sure I was my usual impatient self, and asked what was the problem.  Jan pointed my view up Walnut.  It was only then that I realized that there was a single file line of runners stretching as far as I could see up Walnut.   Could things possibly go worse?  Yes. 

At some point the chute area was just crammed, and our system was breaking down.  Unbeknownst to me, one of our helpers grabbed a stack of finish cards and started using them to reduce the backlog.  The problem:  the cards were in series.......A-1, A-2 to A-100, then B-1, B-2 etc.   The helper had grabbed the H series while we were still using C or D.  The result was that many finishers received cards that recorded them behind many hundreds of runners they had beaten to the finish.  This rendered our finish results highly suspect.

When the finish backup finally resolved itself, I was exhausted, and so was everyone else.  But, the problems were just starting.

The finish results were to be keyed in by translating the finish place and the race number into keystrokes, and then entered into the database of the bank computer being used in the 580 Building. The problem was that there were (only) ten data entry persons. Each runner required seven keystrokes followed by the enter key. Then turn to the next card and repeat.   We later calculated that it would have taken the ten data entry clerks a week of non-stop keystrokes to enter all the runner/place data, let alone the times. 

Meanwhile, all of the finishers on a very chilly/windy 40-degree day were camped in the ballroom at the Stouffers (? now Millennium) Hotel.  David Lyman was the MC, and he had some hostile age group runners waiting a very very long time for results.   Meanwhile, we were trying to manually sort out results on the floor of the Southern Ohio (check reference) bank.  It was like finish line bingo..........lets do Women 30-39............anyone with an A card for a runner W-30-39?  A "B" card.   Because the cards had not been passed out in order after a certain point (we were not aware of this at the time), many age group runners we knew or expected to be highly placed were not in our top finishers. They were giving David Lyman the biz at the Awards Ceremony when they were not announced.   "I beat all of those runners!" was a common refrain. 

Epilogue:  Bob MacVeigh and I were so confident going into the race, we were planning to write a book on how to manage races and finish lines.  Afterwards, we finally went to The Precinct after the race for commiseration and some beverages.  I did NOT want to be identified with the race that evening, or for about a month afterwards.  

As it turned out, many runners were race virgins, and had no idea what to expect, so those runners had no idea we had screwed up royally.   They were happy with the runner singlet and the newfound status of "being a runner."  The finish booklet was a real prize, and a keepsake I still have.  And, as Bob Roncker points out, the boom was on.   

Ultimately, some combination of Harold Schuck, Don Connolly and Pat Harrell worked out a multiple chute finish system, which was a good working answer to big fields.   I do not recall the details, but I believe we figured that if more than one runner was finishing a second for 10-15 seconds, the chute would back up and the finish line would be toast.

Some mention of Ann Jones of Alias Smith and Jones, and Tim Shilling, my Xavier classmate and the Heart Association Exec at the time. 

Respectfully submitted but subject to the memory loss from 39 years ago......

Mike Boylan