As I remember, the afternoon was bright, cool, a perfect running day in downtown Dayton. The date, October 29, 1977 and at 2:15 in the afternoon the first Dayton River Corridor Classic Half-Marathon took off from Fifth and Jefferson Sts near the Stouffer’s Hotel. We ran the City streets eventually getting onto the river corridor, a path not many of us had ever heard of or seen. Across the river you could see the leaders, my thought: “How can anyone run that fast”. Then I was on the other side of the river and alas there were people actually behind me, maybe thinking the same thing. We finished at the Stouffer’s Plaza Hotel. For many of us it was our first event, our longest event. What a great way to begin distance running in Dayton.
But, that was not the early plan. The original concept, as published in the Dayton Daily News, was to start at half time of a University of Dayton vs Central State football game at Welcome Stadium and finish at Stouffer’s Plaza Hotel. I am not sure why or when the course changed, but it did in mid-October.Two managers from Stouffers, John Wilderman and Pete Dangerfield, along with businessman Bill McCormick and Dr. Alan Baker created the DRCC, one of the first Half-Marathons in the country. They enjoyed running in downtown along the river and decided to have a race. They did it right: nice course, great facilities, and nationally known runners gave us a sense of being in the big time. They were able to blend the cooperation of the local newspapers, sponsors, the City government, the Dayton police and the many volunteers.
The big draw the first year was Frank Shorter, Olympic medalist in the marathon. Shorter did not run due to an injury but did give a clinic the night before and was on hand to congratulate the runners at the finish. The youngest entrant was 10 year old Kathy Welsh and the oldest, 71 year old Clair Duckham. We had father/daughter/son teams, such as Chuck and Colleen Curran, Dr Jack Sargent and his two sons, Scott and Mark and many more families who gathered, including the three McNelley brothers. Also star wheelchair athletes, Bob Hall and Ken Archer and blind runner Larry Smith who ran with the help of friends to guide him along the way. As the date got closer, more of the world’s top runners entered, many invited by Steve Price, legendary coach of the Kettering Striders. There were 24 “seeded” runners, three local ones whom I remember: Duane Gaston, Craig Harmes, and Roland Anspach. As I look over the entry list now, so many names have become legends in Dayton running. Over 1000 entered, a great start to a long running event.The winners: Nick Rose, 1:05:34, and Carol Cook, 1:16:48. The “other” winners, 954 people who were part of history, finishers of the first Dayton River Corridor Classic Half-Marathon. And we had a local hero, Dr Dave Westbrock, who saved a life administering CPR to a runner after he collapsed along the course.
The DRCC was at the beginning of the running boom and certainly the running boom in Dayton, Ohio. Spawned from the initial DRCC are such famous Ohio races as the Cincinnati Flying Pig, Columbus, and Air Force Marathons, and the Cincinnati Mini Heart Marathon.
From that humble beginning in 1977 the “Corridor,” continues 39 years later.
The Modern Event
A recent event has particular interest. In 2012, a direction mistake shortened the course by about one half mile. While on the surface this was not good, it did help Hank Wolfe who had a heart attack shortly after finishing the race. Fortunately there were doctors from Kettering Medical Center at the finish line who immediately provided CPR. The Dayton paramedics took over from there and Hank was rushed to Miami Valley Hospital. For a week or so it was rough going, but now Hank is doing fine. The short course as well as the training he did to prepare for the race may well have saved Hank’s life.
Over the years, construction in downtown created problems using the original course. For 2013 the races are starting and finishing at the Payne Recreation Center in Moraine, Ohio a great facility which still allows us to do a major portion of the race on the Corridor recreation trail. As we enter the 37th year, 5 people have ‘Done ‘em all’ and are planning to go again this year: Tim Mahaffey of Huber Heights (now Florida), Felix LeBlanc of Dayton, Kevin Johnston of College Corner, Steve Hemmelgarn of Englewood, and Joe Gerstle of Kettering.
For the rest of us, this is a race, nothing real fancy, just a traditional race as we have always done it. There is entertainment along the way, local groups, including the Centerville Coeds serving refreshments on the course for probably the 30th year (not the same Coeds as 30 years ago), a fun pancake breakfast when you finish. Each half-marathon finisher is awarded a redesigned medal to note their accomplishment. Faster folks in both races are recognized by age groups. Members of the ORRRC receive an entry discount into the Half-Marathon. So if you want a great run, along a beautiful course, come out to the Dayton River Corridor Classic Half-Marathon and 5K on October 13th. Saturday, October 12th there is an Expo, race material pick-up, late registration, and the LaRosa’s Pizza Party. A portion of the proceeds this year are given to The University of Dayton Men’s Cross Country scholarship program and the American Heart Association.