Origins of the current MTRC
by Doug Lindley
My introduction to organized running in Montgomery came in the fall of 1977 when Ed George and I heard there were a group of people holding track meets at Lee high School on Saturday mornings. When we arrived we found Paul Reeder, Jim Bethea, Burke Wilson, John Grider and a few other die hards in an assortment of spikes, racing flats, tennis shoes and combat boots putting on a very informal track meet. Events were held in the 100, 220, 440, 880 and mile, with all participants from ages 5 to 50 running in the same event (still there were usually no more than 3 to an event). In the 880 and mile we would set the stop watch down and the first runner across the finish line would pick it up and call out the time to the other runners.
By then the Capital City Pacers had evolved into the Montgomery Track Club with Paul Reeder as President. The two most active members were Jim Bethea and Burke Wilson, both of whom annually participated in the AAU National Seniors' Track Meet. MTC's primary objective was to sponsor and promote track meets, particularly an annual statewide seniors' meet.
By then, primarily due to the interest and encouragement of Hulic Ratterree, John Cates, Jim Bethea, Gordon Person, Charlie Lane, Ed George and myself, the Montgomery Track Club began sponsoring an occasional road race at Gunter Industrial Park. Again these were very informal runs, with 10 to 15 people running either 1 or 2 laps (which we had measured by car to be about 3.2 miles) and the first runner stopping after 1 lap picking up the stop watch and reading out the times to other finishers.
About this time we began hearing about a group of Air Force personnel who had formed a group called the Central Alabama Road Runners. Under the direction of Jeff and Connie Mangin, CARR was sponsoring weekly road races at Gunter Industrial Park or the Maxwell Soccer field area. Though its races were better organized than MTC's, with registration fees (would you believe 25¢ for members and 50¢ for non-members), posted race results, and measured courses, races were still small and informal. Most races attracted the same 15-20 runners with the starting time determined by when the last arrival got out of his car with at least one shoe tied.
In late May MTC sponsored its first road race away from the Gunter Industrial Park loop. A 5 mile course and a 1 mile course were set up through the Cloverdale area, beginning and ending at Cloverdale Community Center. We actually measured and marked a course and had race marshals and police escorts. Even though Bill McGee ran the wrong course, running ¼ mile too far and crossing the finish line from the wrong direction, he was declared the 5 mile winner.
After the run, while several of us were sitting around talking, Don Andrews of the Sports Tree suggested that Montgomery needed a well publicized 10K road race. Since Connie Mangin had coordinated some larger races previously in other cities and since we all felt like this might stir a great deal of interest in running in Montgomery, both MTC and CARR agreed to work together with the Sports Tree on this project. Being naive and unabashed we felt only a grandiose name like “The Montgomery Road Race” could encompass the scope of what we were about to undertake.
Joe Mussafer of Montgomery Beverage Company and Schlitz agreed to co-sponsor the race with the Sports Tree. We scheduled the race for the second Saturday in July. We mailed entry forms to track clubs around the state and distributed them to all the Y's and sporting goods stores in Montgomery. WSFA gave us a good plug the night before the race. Connie Mangin quickly taught me how to handle a finish line for a larger race and I talked all my friends and secretaries into helping me out on race day.
Much to our surprise about 250 runners, including many from Birmingham, Auburn and Troy, showed up to run in 95° heat. The 10K started and finished at the old Sports Tree location in Olde Town Shopping Center. Andy Whitener won the 10K event.
Throughout the summer CARR and MTC continued to work together on races to avoid duplication of races and to increase participation. By the end of the summer both groups were comfortable that the needs of both track and jogging enthusiasts could be better met through one larger club rather than two smaller clubs.
In October, 1978 the Montgomery Track and Central Alabama Road Runners officially merged to form the Montgomery Track and Running Club. Mike McCormack was elected President, Hulic Ratterree Vice-President, Jeff Mangin Secretary and Doug Lindley Treasurer. Since CARR was already a member of the RRCA, their membership was simply transferred to MTRC. John Cates handled incorporating the club as a non-profit corporation and Dick Maddox began editing a greatly improved newsletter.
Early in 1979 MTRC was asked to officially coordinate and co-sponsor its first major road race. This was the Alabama Log Run, the initial event that year of the annual Alabama Forest Festival. The April 21st run attracted 359 entrants with 190 completing the 10K and 143 finishing the 2 mile fun run. Ed Palmer won the 10K on a hilly course in a very fast 30:24. As a matter of fact his time was too fast and we later discovered it was a short course. As for that hill on Pelzer I still hear people cursing about it. Andy Whitener, who finished 2nd in the 10K, won the 2 mile in 10:44.
On June 1, Mike McCormack resigned as President as a result of being transferred to West Germany. Doug Lindley was elected President and Larry Williams Treasurer. On June 12 Burke Wilson began the very successful All-Comers Track Meet program which has continued throughout the last five years. From an initial meet with about 15 participants Burke increased interest to almost 50 participants by the last meet of the '79 summer. The club also continued to sponsor fun runs on a biweekly basis at Gunter Industrial Park, Maxwell and AUM.
By the end of the summer, as a result of the Alabama Log Run and a greatly increased membership, MTRC was operating in the black. Although our bank balance was small by comparison to 1983, it was no small accomplishment at that time to get the club to a point where Jim, Burke and I were not having to solicit donated Gatorade for each event.
The annual meeting for election of officers was held in January, 1980 at Montgomery Athletic Club. Don Andrews was elected President and the era of co-sponsorship of large road races began for MTRC.