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A Brief History of the Triple Cities Runners Club

by Alan Jones[***]

The elements for the Triple Cities Runners Club evolved out of a series of races held in the Binghamton area since the 1930s. One of the key players in those days was Nick Ruggeri, who ran in distance races from the early 1930s into the 1980s.

One of the races was the St. Christopher race, which started east of Binghamton near the Five-Mile Point racetrack and finished at the St. Christopher Church in Nimmonsburg, just north of Binghamton. It was advertised as a 20 km race but was probably a mile or so short.

In 1970, after running the St. Christopher race, several us discovered that the race was being discontinued by the church. We searched around the area for a suitable site. Someone suggested the course in Vestal that we now know as the Vestal XX course. This satisfied several criteria that we had established: (1) had to be a loop course to avoid the problems of transport from start to finish, (2) had to avoid heavy traffic such as one would find along the Vestal Parkway, and (3) had to provide a place to shower and change.

In 1971 a small group met and decided to bring the race to Vestal. To do this we felt the group needed a name. Not able to come up with anything very original, we decided on "Triple Cities Runners Club." Our thinking was that a better name would come along later, and we could change the name. At that meeting we elected U.S. Marine recruiting officer, Gary Lott, as the initial president of the club. We never saw him again!

But, let me backtrack a bit. In 1968, Ken Cooper came out with his book Aerobics. He developed a point system that gave points for many different physical activities. A bunch of us, being IBM engineering types, latched onto that system and began compiling our points. To help in this, we had a few workouts at the Union Endicott track. These eventually moved to the track at SUNY Binghamton. (The university wasn't known as Binghamton University until several decades later.) It was this group that formed the nucleus of the TCRC. By this time it had expanded well past a bunch of out-of-shape IBMers to include many runners from the community.

When that first Vestal XX was held on June 26, 1971, the course was only 12 miles because that is what the loop from the Vestal High School measured. It went out Main, Glenwood and back on Rt. 26. So that first year, the race had the ungodly name of, "The Triple Cities Runners Club Twelve-Mile Road Race." At the time the qualifying standard to enter the Boston Marathon was a rather mediocre time for a race of 10 miles or more. By the next year, the minimum distance to qualify for Boston was 20 km. So, we added a lap of the track at the beginning and another lap at the end to achieve the 20 km distance. That year, 1972, was the year of the Agnes Flood. The track was so wet that we started and finished on the infield of the Vestal High School stadium.

By this time the activities of the club had settled into a pattern. The third Sunday of each month, from April through November, a running meet was held at the SUNY track at 3:00 PM. Each meet concluded with a 5 km race, which was partly on campus and partly on Murray Hill Road and the Vestal Parkway. In addition, we sponsored the Vestal Road Race. Then in 1973, Dale Held organized the Forks XV 15 km race in Chenango Forks, which has been held every spring since except for the year the railroad bridge was being rebuilt. We thought that the race name, "Forks XV," was kind of classy so we changed the name of the Vestal race to the "Vestal XX."

At our annual meeting in 1977, Pete Keyes, a lawyer, advised us of the risk we were taking putting on races without being a corporation with no insurance. Every member of the club could be sued if something went wrong. Following Pete's advice, and with much assistance from him, we incorporated the Club and formed a Board of Directors.

As the running boom began in the late 1970s, spurred on by Frank Shorter's 1972 Olympic Marathon victory and the publishing of Ken Cooper's book, the Club became involved in the many other races that sprang up in the area. Some that old timers will remember are listed below. The years are the approximate year the race started. I'm sure I've missed some races.

1971: Vestal XX
1971: TCRC age-group meet
1973: Forks XV
1973: Snow Run, Montrose
1974: King and Queen of the Mountain race, distance undetermined
1978: Sun Run, 5 km, 10 km, 20 km
1978: Endless Mountain 10 km, Montrose
1978: Marine Run, 5 km,10 km
1979: Town of Union, 10 km
1979: Run for Hope, 5 km and 10 km
1979: Chensus, 5 km and 15 km
1980: River Run, Owego
1982: General Clinton, Bainbridge, 10 km
1982: Troy 10K Classic
1983: Vestal Elks, 5 km, 10 km
1984: Whitney Point Rotary, 10 km
1984: Peace Run, 8 km
1985: Southside Shuffle, 5 km
1985: Windsor Lions Run, 5 km, 10 km
1985: Dick's Value Run, 5 km, 10 km
1985: Women's Distance Festival, 5 km
1986: Tom Carter's Day Marathon, Owego
1986: Strawberry Festival, 5 km, 10 km
1987: Tioga Terrace Trot, 5 km, 10 km
1987: October Fast, 5 km, 10 km
1988: Blood Run, 8 km
1988: Court Jester, 8 km

Jim Bilik's article from June 1979, Running the Distance gives highlights of the Vestal XX from the early days.

[***] Alan Jones, the founder of the TCRC, was inducted into the Running USA Hall of Champions in February 2007. Alan is the inventor of the Jones counter, which is still in use for measurement of certified race courses. Read more about Alan... and the History of the Jones Counter.