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President Chronology

The GFRC Chronicles - A History of Our Club
(last updated by long time club member Tom Abbott in 2016)

The Greater Framingham Track Club was formed in 1979 by a small group of local runners. The word "Track" in the name was changed to "Running" in 1998.  Those were much simpler times. So simple that no written record of nearly the first year of club meetings still exists.  A newspaper article in the "South Middlesex News" announced the formation of the club in 1979. But that’s about it in terms of a print presence for the club during the first year.  Somehow, however, word about the club spread to the point that membership totaled 32 on June 14, 1980.  Several newsletters from earlier in the spring of 1980 still exist, and we learn that a significant percentage of the club membership participated in such early Spring races as the Garden City Marathon (Newton) and the New Bedford Half Marathon.  Yes those were simpler times.  When the club was born, Jimmy Carter was president, with lust only in his heart, not an intern in the closet.  Jim Rice was a power hitting left fielder and Yaz played first.  Larry Bird was a rookie, Bruce Jenner was still an Olympic hero, Bill Rodgers was a perennial marathon champion and we hadn’t yet boycotted the Moscow Olympics. And the Patriots had won just one playoff game in 20 years. The club met in the Marian High School gymnasium.  The treasury boasted a grand total of $30.75.  Almost half of the club treasury was spent on registration in the New England Athletics Congress, the successor of the AAU and the predecessor of USAT&F.  Gerry Nearman was president, Peter Selig held the vice president’s position, Bill Craig was the secretary and Jim Cooney the treasurer.

It took about one year, but the wisdom of our founding fathers cannot be doubted.  For one of their first official acts was to see that the club was incorporated with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  It may seem extraneous to incorporate a running club, but there are several good reasons, not the least of which is, as the newsletter states, "The incorporation releases individual members from liability when we sponsor a race."  The issue of the club’s incorporation, and race liability arose in the future years, and all club members should be grateful for the wisdom and foresight of these founding members.

Some traditions die hard, and the two GFTC traditions that have endured virtually from the creation of this organization are the Saturday morning runs and is the monthly meetings.  The same early spring newsletter noted above reports, "We completed the winter season without missing a single Saturday fun run" with a dozen members running from the Natick Labs on one cold Saturday morning.  With regard to club meetings, "We originally planned to have general meetings on the first Saturday of the month but must change it to the second Saturday of the month due to the timing of the mailing of the newsletter."  While we may not have always stuck to the "Second Saturday Meeting Rule," and some of the Saturday runs have been run solo, the tradition endures.  From the tidbit column of early 1980, we learn that Roger Kelleher qualified for Boston in the over-50 category, back then he probably had to run a 3:05.  The club’s first president Drew Doyle had a new job, but soon expected to be back running soon.  Teenager Jim Byrnes was beginning to burn up the track and Bob Smith was nursing another spring injury, yes the same Bob Smith who runs everyone into the ground nineteen years later.

Another club activity that found its roots in those early years was the Summer Track Series.  Does this plea sound familiar: "Right now we need record keepers, timers, starters and participants for the weekly Wednesday evening track meets at Bowditch Field. There is a job for everyone, regardless of age or experience and it is proving to be a lot of fun."  The nature of the Wednesday track series has changed somewhat from the early days.  Of greatest significance has been the growth in participation.  For many of those early years, rarely more than 50 or 60 competitors would show up.  Now, weekly crowds of 150 participants or more is common.  Many GFTC members also participated, especially in the longer distance races, rather than simply officiated.  And the featured events for years ended with a two-mile run (through the 1980's to the late 1990's), but started with a 50 & 100-meter dash, a Mile Run, 200-meter dashes, 800-meter and 400-meter runs (in that order). A standing long jump and softball throw lasted through the whole meet.  Of course, there were no relay races whose introduction perhaps signaled a crucial change in the focus of the Wednesday track meets.  The relay events catered to a much younger, yet extremely enthusiastic crowd of participants.  And over the years, the focus of the meets has shifted from adult, performance-oriented programs to the promotion of the participation of the youth of the Framingham area in these low-key meets.  Taking inflation into account, the track meets are still a great deal.  In 1980, with Gerry Nearman’s son Steve in charge, it cost 25 cents per event to participate, or 50 cents for two or more events. Thirty five years later, we’re only a dollar for all the events that you want to run.

The club's Grand Prix Series was stated by Rich Chesmore on October 27, 1985, to add some "spice" to what had been the club's "Race of the Month" for years. Every club member who was discovered to be in the race was automatically scored as an official Series contestant. The first Grand Prix race was the Framingham State Hill Run 3.1-Miler. In that early 5K (that distance was very rare then), 20 of the 22 GFTC members in it raced between 16:51 (Rich C.) and 25:46. Only 2 were slower! That series ran for 6 months. Trophies were awarded to the top 5 point-finishers for both mem and women. Race write-ups were written by Newsletter Editor Lonny Townley, and the write-ups always mentioned by name every GFRC Grand Prix racer. That every-name tradition continues to this day (but write-ups are done by the GP Directors). Shortly afterward, Mary Tyler offered to be Director, "Since no one else wanted to." After one more 6-months-long Grand Prix Series, also ending in June, Mary became too busy with work and commuting, and Tom Abbott agreed to be director, also "to keep it going."  It would then run from June to May every year. Until the early 2000's the calendar featured only one Grand Prix race per month. Then, in 2001-2002, the recognition set in that members actually took vacations, actually went on business trips, or were otherwise amazingly not able to drop everything to run a Grand Prix race every month for a year - and slowly a second race was added for each month. Originally, points were awarded however a member placed within an Open group (up to age 39) and a Masters group (40 and above). Then, as we brilliantly realized 50-year-olds had trouble racing as fast as early-40-year-olds, a Senior Division (50 & Up) was offered. Then the same realization produced a 60+ and eventually a 70+. Then, in 2005, as we noticed sometimes only one or two people were in a 10-year division and happily (but maybe undeservedly) getting maximum points (i.e. 10 points) for "just showing up," age-grading was instituted and immediately became all the rage. Some in their early 40's who got only a few seconds taken off their race time at first went nuts over a 10-years-older member getting several minutes off a race time. But no food fights ever developed, and sanity has reigned ever since. As far as we know.

Track workouts have been scheduled every Tuesday or Wednesday since 1984 as long as Bowditch Field is un-snowcovered. Individual club members have more recently served as coaches (Rich Chesmore, then Rich Person, Mike Ericson, and for the last several years, Arnie Pollinger. Their main function has been to schedule variations of workout distances (from 200 meters to one mile). Occasionally, a Hill Workout is run on Barber Road, a 1/4-mile hill paralleling State Street, near Framingham State University. The majority of participants have regularly turned out to be Grand Prix competitors as well.  

The club from 1983 to 1990's organized and directed (by Lonny Townley and Rich Chesmore) the highly popular Terrible Ten 10-miler in March or April, originally named that because of the "terribly" tough hills (to many) purposely incorporated into the course. As a marketing strategy, it did discourage the weak but also attracted the tough. Bill Rodgers ran the original course (in North Framingham, from the Brophy School) and could do "only" a 50:00. Then, in 1995, residents of the narrow, twisty North Framingham roadways complained of "too many runners in the way" or some such foolishness and the race had to be moved to a start near the Barbieri School at Cushing Park (then Cushing Hospital) and the course travelled the hilliest course (described on form as "hilly and scenic") Lonny and Rich could devise through Framingham and Ashland. One older guy (Ken Mueller) going with the leaders near the end actually had a heart attack, but continued on. Another older guy getting an award at the ceremony was overheard saying, "You just gotta outlive the b*****ds!"  Lonny and Rich also directed the Framingham Five (miler) in June, which raised money for the Flag Day parade. That race started near Bowditch, ran through Cushing Park, up steep Maynard Road at Framingham State, and back to finish on the Bowditch track. A couple of years it featured free beer for participants. 

Relay races have been a staple since at least the early 1980's. The Pymouth to Provincetown was hugely popular, with the club getting up 3 teams at least. Then, because Barnstable didn't like runners running along its bike path (and also didn't appreciate the motel and restaurant revenue from the participants?!), it was discontinued and the North Medford Club organizers took the relay to Lake Winnepesaukee in New Hampshire. They called it the Fred Brown Relay after that great runner and later race director/promoter. Our club for years sent up to five 8-person teams every year, sometimes winning prizes for "Mixed 50's" etc., until it was cancelled in 2015.
Other relays entered into by members and partially paid for by the club were the Reach the Beach, featuring the club's "Stupid Running Friends," the Hopkington trail relay, and the Marathon Mile relay (26 members needed) originally on the Marshfield High School track (for 3 years) and then for years on the Tufts Track in Medford.   

The highly popular Busa Bushwhack Trail Race, named after our highly successful trail runner, Rich Busa, was begun in December of 2005 in a foot of newly fallen snow. Since then it's been held in early November! It winds through the tough Callahan Park trails (5.3 & 10 miles) in North Framingham, and regularly has attracted 250-300 entrants. The limit is imposed only because of parking lot sizes at the Brophy School. Barry Ostrow was the main brainchild of this race, and for years it's generated the lion's share of club revenues. Most of its proceeds have annually gone to charities though a process named The Giveback. The Giveback's machinery consists of members apportioning percentages of the Giveback's holdings depending upon how much members volunteered during the year.   

Being situated right on the course of arguably the most famous marathon in the world, the club  has for decades not only sent sub-3-hour marathoners to the Hopkinton starting line, but in the early years had some not-able-to-qualify members (no matter how hard and long they trained) run Boston as "Bandits" with no numbers. This was very common among all clubs and towns in the area and is definitely not something that is still done. The GFRC still "manned" most of the clocks at each mile, and until 2012 or so the club received $35 per "watched clock" from the BAA. Many members ran the course in the 2:40's (Jack O'Rourke, Keith Chipman?) and a few, such as Rich Chesmore, Art Doyle, and a few others we'd have to look up, ran in the mid-2:30's. With the exception of those early years, all club members now run officially, either with the club's 10 (non-qualifying) lottery picks, Charity Runners (listed mostly on club's website), or officially are "Boston Qualifiers".                

For years, starting in the early 1980's, fun runs used to be run on Saturday mornings from the Bowditch Field parking lot up to Fountain Street and sometimes (if 6 miles wanted) down Singletary Lane or Winter Street (if only 5), up around Framingham State and back to Bowditch. And on Sunday mornings from the late 1980's to around 2007 (give or take 3-4 years) runs from the Brophy School parking lot were run over the Terrible Ten's 10-mile course, ending in the parking lot, where John Shane would almost always have cold Gatorade waiting (even in the brr-winter!). John would also very helpfully put out water at a couple of spots beforehand on his way to the run. Later, runs were to Saxonville (or farther) and back. During Boston Marathon training those runs would go down Elm Street to Pelham Island (the road) and back. Around then - in the mid- 1990's, running on the Callahan Park trails (also near the Brophy School lot) became hugely popular. Barry Ostrow and Rich Busa (along with John Shane) became our "resident mavens" for those, as they knew every crazy path and shortcut through those woods. 

The website was constructed, club historians believe, by Ken Barrett in the late 1990's. An officer-grade position of "Webmeister" was then created and occupied by Jen Fields in 2007.  Jen substantially enhanced the entire website, including the scanning of all club newsletters back to 1980, races (both Grand Prix and "Miscellaneous") back to 2001, online membership signup (Barry Ostrow instrumental in this), a member-only Forum, the club constitution, a Homepage full of Upcoming Events and helpful links, a Calendar of upcoming events, the latest photos (including club photo archives) and other pertinent data. It should be mentioned here that high-quality photos of many club members in races have been taken for years (and still are being taken) by member Ted Tyler and provided free to anyone. Many of his photos have appeared on the website and earlier in the newsletters. The website was taken over by Bruce Hardy in 2012 and in 2015 by Steve Galloway, who has lately updated and enhanced many of the website's features.       

Club membership stayed in the range of 150-200 or so from the early 1980's through the early 2000's, and then got near or over 300 members around 2015. Members' reasons for joining were kept track of by Membership Director Mike Gannon around 2012, and showed such reasons as: "Googled", "friend" (a member's name usually given), "club website", "saw club name on shirt at race", etc.  

The Activities Director position has long been responsible for arranging monthly meeting date and members' homes locations, plus any other odd fun things to do. The Annual Awards Banquet in mid-June has been one of most highly-attended events we put on.  We've had a hugely popular Pasta Party 2 days before the Boston Marathon for years at different members' homes. We've had a Christmas Caroling run with stops at nursing homes since the 1980's, with a party following it since around 2012. Since the "Turn of the Century" we've formed a relay team, "Stupid Running Friends," which competes in the 24-hour Reach the Beach. Since the late 1980's the club has held a New year's Eve Champagne Run and Toasting Tour, with stops for sips at usually four members' homes over a 4-5-mile distance.  The runs start at 4:30 p.m. for safety's sake!  After the last Summer Track meet, there's a pizza party one week later for the many volunteers needed to put it on. For the last several years, beginning in 2012, Director Jeff Hattem has added many other fun activities, such as "club-sponsored" events at running, fitness and beer-brewing entities, plus trail runs - followed by food & drink - on selected weekdays.   

Today, with over 300 current members, The Greater Framingham Running Club continues to build on this strong history.

A previous "History Of Our Club" write up from sometime around the turn of the century can be found here.