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History of Milford Road Runners
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HISTORY OF MILFORD ROAD RUNNERS

 

When Bob Hensley and Jerry Patrick reunited in the later months of 1976, they had much more in mind than the bi-centennial of our country. Bob, an avid runner, just finished four years of running at Oregon State. When back in town, he reached out to his former high school coach at Johnathan Law, Jerry Patrick, who coached Bob in early 1970’s. During his college years, he ran under the tutelage of Bill Bowerman and Olympian Steve Prefontaine. Once Bob and Jerry reconnected, they began some runs together meeting a few times at the Milford Rec Center. After a few runs together, they had a vision to take running in Milford to next level.

What happened next would be the opening chapter in the creation of the current Milford Road Runners running club.

1970’s

January 8, 1977            Bob, Jerry, Alan Aitken and three others met at Johnathan law for a "fun run"

March 30, 1977            Due to the popularity of the runs, a Wednesday night run was added behind the    library

Summer 1977               Run moved to Eisenhower park

                                   Named themselves Milford Fun Runners

Beginning of the kid’s track series. Initially, the series was held at Foran High School, but moved to Platt Tech on Orange Avenue

September 1977           Club legally changed name to Milford Road Runners. Initially through AAU, now called USTAF

        The first club singlet was designed and worn by Allen Aitken

Late 1970’s        Current members: John Eric Nelson, June and Vic Norman and Bill Bevan joined the club. These members are our favorite cheerleaders at the New Haven Road Race!!

        Harvey Pond became the first club president

        During the club’s infancy, MRR hosted a few road races such as Milford Shoreline Run (78-82), The Equitable Life Insurance Race(79-80) and the Milford Historic Race

        MRR started having Christmas parties at the Steak and Sword on Route 1 and the Gathering across from the green

        Race officials approached Bob to host a marathon in New Haven. Boston Marathon winner, Bill Rogers was invited to compete. Due to Bob’s expertise, this race was scaled down to a 20k. This was the birth of the New Haven Road Race

        AAU becomes the TAC (The Athletic Congress)

1978        Bob Hensley would even open his own running store called Pheidippides on Bridgeport Avenue

1979 – 1985        Bill Bevan and Jerry Patrick took over ownership  of the store and renamed it Sunset Sports

1980’s

As the disco fades and the running trend grows, the club sprinted straight ahead into the 1980’s.  

 A new decade led to many changes for the club, specifically many presidential changes. We are not talking about Reagan replacing Ford, but:

1980                        Harvey Pond

1981                        Jim Riccio

1982                        Paul Ernst

1983                        Rhett Beachemin

1984                        Ed Drapp

1985        Robert (Bob) Stephenson became president after returning home from vacation on Monday to find he had been voted into the position. Bob remained president until Obama administration. Now that’s a long run, pun intended!  Bob had joined the club in 1981 after moving to Connecticut. 

        

        Under Bob’s leadership, Grand Prix Divisions began when members were placed in groups to compete against each other. Points would be earned based on performances during races throughout the year. Talk about bragging rights!

The club newsletters started about this time as well. Everyone would look forward to these stamped letters from Bob which contained both club happenings and humor                                                         

1981        The birth of the club sponsored Independence Day 5000 July 4th Race and the Winter Wonderland 5 miler

1982        First MRR marathon called the Perimeter Run which circled the town, began at Gulf Beach and ended at club member Tom Hiten’s house. Within the race club members had break stops every few miles at member’s houses.

1986        Bob Hensley, the founding father moved to Florida

        George Geer joined the club, and later became club secretary

1988        Gary Dubois joined MRR who became the Men’s USATF captain for many years

1990’s

1990        Brian Fidler “the unknown runner” joined the club. Story has it, that during the winter season, Brian showed up to club runs covered up with ski-mask. President Bob and other members were not quite sure who this unknown runner was. Hence the legend was born, when Bob referenced him to a character on the Gong Show

        Jim and Donna Crammond join the club and can be pictured wearing their Reece’s Pieces shirts on at various races and club events.  Donna is famous for her catch phrase “stay off the track” at the summer Kid’s Track series using her megaphone. This also inspired this author to get one.

        The club started weekly Tuesday evening runs in Stratford. Part of this Tuesday night group was member Wayne Theriault. This group became Wildebeest Sanction of the club. This idea sprung from a conversation he had with another runner in the corrals at the start of the Boston Marathon. A Wildebeest was not a fast animal, but slow and steady and kept going. This group designed running shirts that said, “More than just a running Club”. The glue of this group, especially for the ladies, was this writer’s high school math teacher, Mrs. Kathy Ciccone. Kathy would pass away in 2003 after a courage’s battle with cancer. She still lives on in many of our club members’ hearts.

1995        Chris Dickerson, Amity Regional High School coach joined the club

8/26/1999        Chris Dickerson opened the Woodbridge Running Company. This is the club’s favorite running store. WRC is a major sponsor of our races and kid’s series.

2000’s        Al Post, Emad Haerizadeh, Jerry Meshell (who became the longest running treasurer for MRR), Ines Walther, Matt Santillo, Michael Gerwein, Leah Sampson, Thomas Fatone, Dawn Clark and Keith Jenci all joined the green team.

2010’s        This appeared to be the decade of love. Many of our members ran down the aisle. However, there were a lot of memorable fun activities such as the Donut Run (who can ever forget Matt showing up in the pink Tutu), scavenger club, summer sizzle challenge.

10/10/2010        Keith and Dawn Jenci married, and of course sported running bibs racing into the reception

4/2014        Thomas Fatone and Jennifer Schweiger married in a two-day ceremony. You know they are runners when the spend of these days racing the Cheshire Half Marathon.

2014        Jeremy Grant took the sneakers of Becky Beers. This married couple are both current club officers         

        Monday night run was born. A recovery/beginner night as a night everyone runs together making it a very social run

        Franklyn Gandiaga, our current treasurer joined

        Bob stepped down as president, leaving Mark Juliano to take over

2018        Debby “princess” Valin became our first female president. During her reign, giving back to the community was her platform. The club held several charity races and fun runs raising funds for Derby, Amity and New Haven track clubs, Ct Hospice, Loaves and Fishes, WSHU Radio Station and Milford Family Resource Center.

1/2019        Patriot Bank became the title sponsor of our Winter Wonderland Race

6/2019        First Plogging event on Global Running Day

7/2019        July 4th race was moved to Tribus brewery. The new Sponsor was Dr Sanjay Patel. The new location and new sponsor led to a very successful race

3/2020        COVID came to Connecticut causing cancellation of group runs, races and the kid’s series. Club meetings and social events were held via Zoom. Weekly emails kept the club together during this time of isolation.

5/2020        Debby Valin and Louis Giancola made a video to music showcasing our runners. This can still be found on You-tube. MRR Keep Running

11/2020        Louis Giancola took over as president. Taking over this role during the pandemic was very challenging…. To say the least! Despite this tough transition, he managed to keep the club moving forward.

1/2022        Winter Wonderland returned as a live race!!! Despite the cold and snowy conditions, this was very successful and wonderful to have back.

It seems we are back!  No one knows what the future holds, but the Milford Road Runners are here stay. Throughout the years, we have many Road Runners join our family. Each one part of our history for tomorrow. From that one fun run back in, to the current day, people will be sure to see us on the roads. We hope to see you as well.  

 

Thomas Fatone 

March 2022 

Dedicated to those in green who have passed before us. Thank you for the run. 

Camille Dickinson 

Stan Koskowitz 

Gerry McClusky 

Gerreth Mair 

Frank Kelly 

Chick Tamillio 

Ron Williams 

Ed Pilvelait 

Frank Hmelovsky 

Italio Guicciardini 

Bernie Billard 

David Stephens 

Bob Whitman 

Cathy Ciccone 

David Kohl