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