Was that The Sierra Slowpokes? | TheUnion.com

Was that The Sierra Slowpokes?

What a long way our local running club has come.

Back in 1977, local runners Gary Loucks and Annabelle Robbins would see other runners out on the roads and trails when they were running, and thought it would be nice to be able to meet them and share workouts and their love of running.

They knew that running clubs existed in other towns around the country, but didn’t know the logistics necessary to get one going in Grass Valley, which at that time had a population around 5,000, half of what it is now.

Putting an inquiry in to the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA), Annabelle and Gary gained the details they needed to start an “official” running club and decided to go for it.

At their instigation, an article ran in The Union inviting runners to come for the historic first meeting, which occurred on an evening in January of 1978, with about 15 people joining.

The club was off and running.

Within a month, membership had doubled to 30.

A unanimous decision was made to name the club The Sierra Slowpokes Running Club and a graphic artist designed the smiling snail in running shoes logo.

The club’s constitution was agreed upon, and it stated “The main purpose of this association shall be the promotion and encouragement of running and jogging as a sport and healthy exercise with the emphasis on family running; i.e. anyone may join regardless of sex, age, or athletic ability. That we would hold many types of running events and be open to members and non-members.”

That first year of the club’s existence, 1978, was a busy one, with the first newsletter coming out in February with a President’s message from Gary and a “within driving distance” race schedule. Annabelle was the Secretary/Treasurer and her two children were, as she so delicately puts it, “slave volunteers” at the club events.

Along with a monthly newsletter that first year, the club had T-shirts printed for members who wanted them, held monthly runs, quarterly meetings, appointed a publicity chairperson, celebrated National Jogging Day with fun runs, had a clinic with a local doctor and obtained tax exempt status through the RRCA.

By the end of the first year, the club membership had quadrupled from the 15 at the first meeting to 60.

Over the years, the club has organized and held many local races, including the popular Memorial Day Run, which used to be held the last Sunday in May, the Empire Mine Gold Rush Run (which was one very tough and hilly course), the Banner Mountain Stampede (a handicap race), the Mountain Madness Run and the Women’s Distance Festival.

The club currently puts on the Draft Horse Classic, which has a 5K Run/Walk, a 10K race and a kids’ race, held September 19th this year at the Fairgrounds in conjunction with the 18th Annual Draft Horse Classic & Harvest Fair (for more details, see http://www.theschedule.com).

Worthy of note is that the STRC sent a Master’s team to the Tahoe Relays in 1982 and came away winning the Master’s division.

In 1992, the club was at the point of printing new shirts and the subject came up for a vote at a monthly meeting about the club’s name. I, for one, stated that there was no chance I would wear a racing singlet with the Slowpoke name on it, as I have no intention of running slowly in a race or being considered a snail.

It was time for the club to think a bit on the faster side and the decision was made to change the name to the Sierra TrailBlazers Running Club with a new logo.

The club’s newsletter, originally titled The Sierra Strider back when the club was the Sierra Slowpokes, won the RRCA’s first place award for best small club newsletter, presented to Editor Gary Loucks back in the late ’80s. More recently, in 1999, Editor Annabelle Robbins was given an Honorable Mention award by the RRCA for best small club newsletter for the now-titled Sierra TrailBlazer.

Earlier this year, the STRC celebrated its 26.2-year anniversary (in honor of the classic marathon distance) with a large turnout and awards banquet.

The club, now over 150 members strong, continues to publish a monthly newsletter, available online at http://www.nccn.net/~strc/Newsletter.pdf, have monthly meetings (sometimes with guest speakers), regular club training runs and various theme parties.

Interested runners, joggers and walkers are encouraged to find out more about the club, which can be done online at http://www.nccn.net/~strc/, or by contacting President John Felde at johnfelde@theunion.net (or by phone at 271-1103), Treasurer Annabelle Robbins at arobbins@appleisp.net (phone, 273-9268) or Membership Director Ken Soenen at ksoenen@trip.net (phone, 432-4269).

Annabelle summed it up best when she said, “The greatest benefit to come from the club is exactly what we envisioned in the beginning of our dream. I have met so many wonderful folks, encouraged many beginners and met so many wonderful mentors I couldn’t begin to name if I tried.”


Steve Bond, who lives in Grass Valley, is a competitive runner and writes a bi-monthly column or feature about running for The Union. He may be reached via e-mail at stillrunning5@sbcglobal.net.

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