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July 30, 2017

Looking back on when I first started running around town

I was reading a short article in Texas Runner and Triathlete magazine about some of the changes that have occurred over the last 20 years.

It started me thinking about all the changes that I recall over my running days that started in 1979. That was the year of the first Capitol 10,000, and about 2,000 runners ran over the trail in Town Lake.

The first race that I was part of here in San Marcos was the Cinco de Mayo 10K, starting out at the Civic Center and heading out Wonder World (Redwood Road back then) and coming back in on Clovis Barker road. We had a few hundred runners, and Warren Leddick was the race director.

I started trying to put on races in 1980 with some mixed results of success. I learned quickly that you do not have good results if you are the race director and want to run in the race at the same time. This is especially true if you are not a frontrunner at the finish. Things can go drastically wrong if you are not at the finish when the first runner crosses the line, and the volunteers who are not runners try to fix any problems.

The age-group limit was over 40 years, because there were not any runners that old still running. A runner older than 40 told me that the older runners do not come because there is not an age group for them. I started adding an age group of over 60 years; and sure enough, the older runners started showing up at the races.

It was expensive to buy awards for all the age groups, as there were several groups where we always had awards left over. This was primarily in the women’s age groups, especially in the over-40 and above age categories. The most popular age groups were the 20-to-29 and 30-to-39 age groups for men.

Most races today have an age group of over 70 years as a standard; some of the larger races go up to over 90 years for an age group, and fill the age group out. It seems that the awards that are left over now are the under-19-years age group.

Some races will have a runner about 12 years old take home an award, as there are no teenagers entered. This is especially seen with the younger girls’ categories. The most popular age group for women at many of the races is the 50-to-59 age group. One year at my half marathon race, 14 out of the top 15 finishers were over 40 years old, and a woman in her 50s took first overall for the female category.

We bought shirts with a few small, a few more medium-sized, a lot of large size and a few of the extra-large size. One year the trend was for the younger age group to wear oversized shirts. Expecting the younger and smaller runners to take small sizes, we ran out of the large size, as the young age group took all the shirts we planned for the adult runners.

Today the order goes in with approximately 25 to 30 percent small, 30 percent medium, 33 percent large and 18 percent extra-large size. And in my storage area, the largest number of left-over race shirts is extra-large. If we run out of sizes, it is the small size, followed by the medium size running out. Such are some of the changes.

Most awards were the standard trophy, with a man or woman runner on it. Awards are getting more creative and distinct to the race. The San Marcos High School AFJROTC Rattler Run & 5K gives out trophies of a big rattlesnake that runners cherish.

The most popular race was the 5K distance, with an occasional 10K. The half-marathon distance had maybe a dozen races in Texas over the year back in 1984 when I started my race. The 5K distance is still popular, but the trend is now the half marathon. Almost any weekend, there will be as many as three half marathon races somewhere in Texas.

One year there were three half marathons on the same date as my race, all within a close driving distance to the area. Competition for runners became a real problem. It seemed that if a runner completed a marathon they got a race medal for participation. Now almost all half marathons, and some of the 10K distance races, all give medals for participation.

The make-up of runners has changed also. Back in 1990, the number of women entering races was 25 percent. In 1995 the percentage of women runners went up to 32 percent. In 2000 the percentage increased to 42 percent; and by 2010 women runners outnumbered the men 53 percent to 47 percent. Since 2012 the percentage of women runners has leveled off at 57 percent of the race entrants.

The total number has changed from 4,797,000 runners in 1990 to a total of 19,025,000 runners in 2013. It has decreased some in 2016 to 17,000,000 runners finishing races. Either way you look at the numbers today, it is still 12,203,000 more runners taking advantage of a healthy way of exercise than almost 20 years ago.

It is time to buy a pair of running shoes and join the crowd for a healthy lifestyle.

Moe Johnson
Dr. Maurice Johnson - better known around San Marcos as “Moe” - is a professor in the Department of Health, P.E., Recreation and Dance at Texas State University - San Marcos. Moe has been a fixture in the San Marcos running community - both as a runner and race organizer - since way back when Moby Dick was a minnow. His column on running and fitness appears each Sunday in the Sports section of the San Marcos Daily Record.

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