Safety Comes FirstPublished April 5, 1999 in The Post-Standard.
By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer
Traditionally, April ushered the arrival of daylight savings time, and with it, longer evenings and later sunsets. This extra hour at the end of the day permitted organized evening training runs in preparation for the summer road racing season.
For the past 17 years, April brought along the Tecumseh Tuesday training runs of 2.83 and 5.67 miles, which started and ended in the parking lot of Tecumseh Elementary School, located at the corner of Waring Road and Nottingham Road in DeWitt. The hilly course followed one or two loops around Peck Hill Road, and was a good predictor of a runner's fitness for 5K and 10K races.
This year, April brings the end of the Tecumseh Runs, and the birth of a new spring training series. Concerned for the safety of runners, the Board of Directors of the Syracuse Chargers Track Club voted to relocate the runs to a new venue. An ad-hoc committee recommended a new course starting and ending at Skytop on the South Campus of Syracuse University. Arrangements are under way to finalize details for an April 6 start of the new series.
The concerns for the safety of the Tecumseh course accumulated gradually over the past several years. The erosion of the shoulder on parts of Nottingham Road forced runners into incoming traffic over a stretch where the speed limit is 55 miles per hour. Similarly, the risks of a shoulder-less Waring Road were compounded by the evening traffic of the golf course and steak house.
A recent explosion in new housing construction off Nottingham, Peck Hill, Tecumseh and Quintard Roads added several new intersections onto the course, and created a substantial increase in vehicular traffic. With the blind twist on the southern end of Peck Hill Road, the runs became a tragedy waiting to happen.
Recognizing that the safety of participants is the first responsibility of the organizers, the debate to relocate the Tecumseh runs turned quickly into a sentimental journey, given the historical significance of these runs. In many ways, the Tecumseh runs were the only remaining link between today's Syracuse Chargers Track Club and the founding days of Arnie Briggs and Katherine Switzer.
Following her historic 1967 Boston Marathon run, Katherine Switzer returned to Syracuse determined to create running opportunities for women. With the help of her coach Arnie Briggs and local runners, she started a series of Tuesday training runs at Christian Brothers Academy (CBA). The July 1, 1969 CBA 10K was the first event organized by the new club. The results of that run were published on July 7, 1969 as the club's first newsletter.
For the record, sixteen runners participated in that first CBA run, including Arnie Briggs and Katherine Switzer Miller. Bill Ripple and Marty Robb tied for first place in a time of 32:33.5. The next few newsletters carried the familiar names of Ed Stabler, Chick Kasouf, Bruce Fredrikson, John Holm, Bob Milner, Jerry Riordan, Tom Homeyer, Jerry Smith, Bill Hughes and Bill O'Brian.
At the end of the Summer of 1969, the new club bestowed honorary memberships on several people who were instrumental in its launch, including Syracuse University engineering professor Gordon Kent and track coach Bob Grieve, and Post Standard reporter Neil Kerr.
The Tuesday evening runs remained at CBA until the end of the Summer of 1981. On April 27, 1982, the series resumed at its new venue of the Tecumseh Building, where it remained through the Spring of 1998. When I started running in 1989, the Tecumseh runs became the corner stone of my spring training and summer racing, as well as the social start of my running calendar.
Unfortunately, emotions and nostalgia cannot stand in the way of progress, especially when safety is the driving force behind change. In many ways, the move to Skytop is the completion of a full thirty-year circle with the return to Arnie Briggs' and Katherine Switzer's early training grounds.
Kamal Jabbour commits his 18:10 Tecumseh PR to history, as he joins fellow runners in welcoming Spring from Skytop. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains The Syracuse Running Page and receives email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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