Friday, February 27, 2015

The Running Roots of the Glass City Marathon

     The Glass City Marathon has a long and rich history that dates all the way back to a time before I was born.  Since 1971 the Glass City Marathon has seen its share of changes from title sponsors, slight name changes, location of the event and the time of year.  Faced with the adversity of losing its title sponsorship which forced the race to shut down for a short time, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the GCM has been reborn to become the vital linchpin of Northwest Ohio's running community.  Below is a brief overview of that rich history and those that worked so hard to make it a true gem of Toledo, Ohio.

The Beginning: 1971 – 1983

The very first Glass City Marathon started and finished at the University of Toledo on June 20, 1971. Sy Mah ran the race that day, as did two Churchills (Walt Jr., a key founder of the Toledo Roadrunners Club, and Walt III) and a runner named Fred Lebow who came all the way from New York City. We hear that Lebow accomplished some things later back East and are glad we could give him some ideas. The race remained on Fathers’ Day and anchored at the University of Toledo until 1981 when the race was moved to the Fall and to Side Cut Park of the MetroParks of Toledo. In 1983 the race moved to downtown Toledo and was titled the Pepsi Challenge Glass City Classic Marathon. Despite the seeming momentum of a new downtown course, Pepsi did not renew its sponsorship and the race fell dormant for the next six years.

Rebirth: 1990 – 2009

     In 1989 a group of influential Toledo Roadrunners revived the Glass City Marathon and Pam Graver was key to this revival as she took on the task of directing the race. The race was dedicated to the late Sy Mah, who had passed away in 1988. From 1990 to 2009, the Glass City Marathon served as the key cog in the running world of Northwest Ohio with the course starting and finishing downtown.

Rocket Return: 2010 – Present

     In 2010, the Toledo Roadrunners Club decided to return the event to its historical roots at the University of Toledo and give the event a new look and new energy. The results have been dramatic. The half marathon has sold out every year since the event’s return to the University of Toledo and participation in the marathon, half marathon, marathon relay, and 5K races has grown from over 3,200 in 2010 to over 4,500 in 2011 to over 5,800 in 2012. In 2012, Owens-Corning came on board as the sponsor of the half marathon and Medical Mutual of Ohio became the title sponsor for the Glass City Marathon. 2013 and 2014 saw continued growth topping 7,000 in 2014 with the Owens Corning Half Marathon selling out for the sixth consecutive year.

Pam Graver-Koenig

     Pam Graver-Koenig was a special person, an avid runner, and a dynamic contributor to the Toledo Roadrunners Club of historic proportion. Pam was a member and past president of the TRRC. And there may not be the TRRC Glass City Marathon were it not for Pam. In 1990, after six years without a Glass City Marathon, Pam agreed to help renew the event, became the race director and played a major role in the resurrection of a Northwest Ohio running tradition.  Pam was also a TRRC Sy Mah Award recipient, the award the club bestows for lifetime achievement to the club and the sport.
     Pam passed away on July 4, 2011. In 2012, the Toledo Roadrunners Club Scholarship Fund in Honor of Pam Graver-Koenig was established. For more information on the scholarship or to give please go to the Toledo Roadrunners site.

Sy Mah

     Sy Mah was an influential figure in the running boom of the 1970s. Mah was an assistant professor of physical education at the University of Toledo from 1970 to 1988. Mah did not start running marathons until he was 40, yet at the time of his death in 1988, Mah held the record for the most lifetime marathons at 524. The Sy Mah Memorial Scholarship at the University of Toledo was established in 1990 by his friends and family with financial support from the Toledo Roadrunners Club. In addition to meeting various academic standards, qualified recipients within the College of Health Science and Human Service are required to be “avid social runners.”

     Mah ran the Glass City Marathon several times, including at the inaugural event in 1971. Runners in the Glass City Marathon pass by a life-size statue of Mah in Olander Park Mah is believed to have said, “I believe Americans have been brainwashed with the idea that they must do less because increased age will result in less energy and diminished capacity. I have found this is simply not true if a person does not allow his mind to accept the traditional view of aging.”

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