Saturday, February 23, 2013

A bit of Cowtown Marathon nostalgia

One Sunday, runners in the full marathon will go right past my house, and I'll sit on the front porch much of the morning and cheer them on. My daughter says she'll put signs in my yard.
I've heard various stories in recent years about who started the marathon. I was always told the idea was hatched in my living room. A group from the Institute for Human Fitness--all men, no women--met every Sunday to discuss the programs of the institute, a project of TCOM (now UNTHSC) devoted to helping people achieve wellness through physical fitness--an appropriate osteopathic concept. While they discussed fitness, a friend and I were in the kitchen fixing the richest, most sinful desserts we could imagine--I particularly remember Italian Cream Cake. And those fitness gurus ate every bite. But I was told the marathon idea sprang out of those meetings and my then-husband, Joel Alter, was one of the founders, along with Charles Ogilvie. Joel claimed the once-classic symbol of the race, Cowtown Charlie, was him, and it could have been with the big moustache. But I always thought it was Charlie Ogilvie.
The night before the first marathon we sat in the house and heard sleet. "@#$%! I didn't want sleet" was Joel's response. He left in the wee hours in the morning, and still early, I bundled up four children (one of them probably three at most) and drove over ice and snow to Fort Worth's Historic National Stockyards Discrict. In those days I worked in the Communications Office of TCOM and was doing publicity for the marathon. When we got there, I turned the children loose and spent the day doing whatever pr people do, including popping in occasionally to the RV that a local radio station had brought to the site and giving live on-air reports.
Now, I am horrified that I turned my very young children loose on the North Side, but they have assured me they were always with a huge bunch of kids. And they all survived, so I guess I should banish it from my long list of motherly guilts. They looked forward to race day every year, and, frankly, so did I. After Joel and I split, I did publicity one more year--I think to prove to him and to myself that I coiuld do it. And then I bowed out.
Charlie continued to run well into his eighties and always took first in his age group--no surprise there. Sometimes he'd take me to the carb-loading pasta dinner the night before, and I loved seeing old friends. I made a couple of really good friends through the marathon.
Today, of course, the race is a far different thing, a mega race with a full-time, year-round paid staff, probably ten times the number of runners we ever dreamed of, so many side events it makes my head spin, and this year, so I read, an exposition for runners, complete with demonstrataions of osteopathic soft-tissue maniuplation. The Institute for Human Fitness, a great concept, is long gone.
Tomorrow when those runners go by, a host of memories will flood me. Those were good days, another lifetime ago.


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