THE ST. LOUIS ULTRARUNNERS GROUP
A LOOK BACK A Short History – 1998 Through 2011
by Jan Ryerse
In 2011 I compiled a history of the Saint Louis Ultrarunners Group for the newsletter. In that article I described the “early days” - the “how, where, when and why” the club came to be. I acknowledged the officers and race directors who served during that 14 year period from 1998 through 2011 and documented the initiation and development of club races. In 1999 there were 30 dues-paying members; in 2011 this had grown to 140. There were 63 entrants in the first Double Chubb 50K in 1999. You could sign up on race day. In 2011, the park-mandated limit of 120 was reached in 10 hours of on-line registration. How things have changed! Here’s a look back to look back to see how it all began.
In December 1997 several distance runners from the St. Louis area met to discuss the possibility of forming a St. Louis ultra-running club. An exploratory meeting was held on December 27th at the Hampton and Highway 40 McDonalds restaurant following a Frostbite run in Forest Park. In attendance were Ken DeBeer, Gary Fuerst, David Giger, Kevin Kepley, Jan Ryerse and Jim Stroup. Details of organizing an ultrarunning club and putting on a club sponsored ultramarathon in the spring of 1998 were discussed. Plans were made for a second meeting in early January to which other local marathoners and distance runners would be invited. The second meeting was held on January 3rd, 1998 at the Trailhead Brewing Company in St. Charles. Among those attending were Ken DeBeer, Gary Fuerst, David Giger, Tracey Grzegorczyk, Gwen Heist, Kevin Kepley, Jeff Moomey, David Price, Tom Reich, Jan Ryerse, David Spetnagel and Jim Stroup. Ideas were tossed around - where to hold an ultra in the spring of 1998, whether to form an independent club or form an affiliation with a local running club, whether to join the Road Runners Club of America, what if any club dues should be levied, how liability insurance could be obtained and what name we should call the club. The (tongue in cheek) suggestion that we name the club the St. Louis Ultrarunners Troup garnered laughs but didn’t fly. Decisions were tabled for the next meeting.
The St. Louis Ultrarunning Group is Formed
The third meeting, held January 10, 1998 at Jan Ryerse’s, was attended by Gary Fuerst, David Giger, Kevin Kepley, Jan Ryerse and Jim Stroup. It was unanimously decided to form an independent ultrarunning club rather than approach any of the local running clubs. The club was named the St. Louis UltraRunners Group with the members being referred to as SLUGs. A mission statement was formulated - to promote trail, track and road ultra-running in the greater St. Louis area. Towards this end, it was decided that the club would hold regular meetings to make decisions about club organization and activities, sponsor and organize ultramarathon races, and host monthly fun-runs in which SLUG members and other interested runners could participate. Jan Ryerse was named club president and David Giger secretary-treasurer for 1998. It was unanimously decided that the St. Louis UltraRunners Group would join the Road Runners Club of America to legitimize club standing as a nationally recognized running club and to obtain liability insurance for SLUG officers and SLUG-sponsored events. Club bylaws were to be formulated by David Giger and circulated for comments. It was decided that club dues would be $20.00 per year with the money going to pay the annual RRCA membership fee and to support club-sponsored activities, and that members get a $10.00 discount from entry fees on two club-sponsored ultras per year. Rather than immediately organizing a new ultra, the club would sponsor and assist RD Dave Giger in running the Silver Lake Trail 50K race in the spring of 1998 and advertise the race in Ultrarunning magazine as a SLUG event. On April 25th, 1998 this race became the first SLUG-sponsored ultramarathon. There were 17 starters from 5 different states including Texas and California. Just about start time it began to rain and the course, particularly along the lake, became a mud-fest. Part-way out along the lake there was a 30 foot wooden plank footbridge spanning a narrow inlet. The footbridge was tilted and slippery. I don’t know if anyone actually slid into the lake but with my muddy shoes and the wet planking I came very close to doing so. Joel Lammers from Wisconsin won that first SLUG race in 4:09:51 and Susan Rozanski from Illinois won on the women’s side in 5:54:00. That was the last year for the Silver Lake 50K as it morphed into the Double Chubb with Gary Fuerst as race director in the spring of 1999 (more on that shortly).
One of the club sponsored activities proposed at the January 10th meeting was to host monthly fun-runs as a venue for runners new to the sport could run with and learn from the more experienced ultrarunners and experience the parks and trails in our area. Part of the idea of the fun-runs was to bring new members into the club, a goal which has been quite successful over the years. In the beginning, the fun-runs were held on the first Saturday of each month with the location and time determined by a club member.
The next SLUG meeting was held on December 17th 1998 at Kevin Kepley’s with Ken DeBeer, Gary Fuerst, Dave Giger, Tracey Grzegorczyk, Kevin Kepley, Tom Reich, Jan Ryerse, Jim Stroup, and Mark Williams in attendance. Dave Giger reported the club had $110.00 on hand. The club bylaws which had been formulated and distributed by Dave Giger were discussed. Kevin Kepley suggested that article IIB(2) “organize and put on one or two ultramarathons a year” be changed to read “organize ultramarathons” so as not to limit the number of events the club could sponsor each year (in retrospect a good suggestion). The bylaws were subsequently approved at the next meeting and are attached at the end of this article. Kevin was named SLUG president for 1999 and Dave Giger volunteered to continue as secretary- treasurer. Jan Ryerse volunteered to edit a SLUG Newsletter and the first newsletter was mailed out to club members in January 1999. At the end of 1998 there were 25 members in the SLUGs.
At the December ‘98 meeting, Gary Fuerst suggested that the SLUGs organize a spring 50K ultramarathon. Several venues were discussed but it was decided to hold this new SLUG ultra on the Chubb trail in west St. Louis County. Gary was unanimously appointed RD. The ultra would be called the “Double Chubb 50K” and was scheduled for Saturday April 10, 1999.
The course from the Lone Elk Park trailhead to the west Tyson trailhead was 6.7 miles as wheeled by Gary and Jim Stroup. A double out and back course starting at the east Lone Elk end was approved and the additional 4.2 miles required for 50K was made up by starting the race at the archery parking lot at the east Lone Elk end and by adding the Chinkapin trail at the west Tyson end. April 10 turned out to be a terrific day for running. The previous week had been in the mid 80’s and humid, and the day after the race it poured rain and turned the course into a muddy mess but Saturday arrived just a little misty, with overcast skies, a gentle breeze and early morning temperatures around 50. There were 63 entrants from 14 states. 59 runners finished. Joel Lammers from Wisconsin won in 4:05:36 and Gwen Heist took the women’s win in 4:51:45. The real race among the women was between Amy (Ryerse) Moser from St. Louis and Robin Kokjohn from Iowa. Robin won in the end finishing 2 minutes ahead of Amy in 5:42:01. Gary Fuerst was race director of the DC 50K for 2 more years in 2000 and 2001. In 2002 he shared RDing with Victoria White and David White so he could run his own race.
In 2002 race day started with cloudy skies, temperatures in the low 50’s and the course in great condition - perfect for fast times. The race started and finished at the Lone Elk end and about 30 minutes into the race the men’s leader Jesse Petersen from Utah just made it across the first RR crossing before a train came rumbling past and held up the second and third place runners. One of them was Joel Lammers who went on to make up the 2 minutes he lost at the crossing and ultimately won the race in a course record of 3:54:56. The women also did very well in the 2002 race with the “Wisconsin ladies” Lynn Mayer, Holly Neault-Zinzow and Christine Crawford all breaking the old course record. Lynn won in a time of 4:41:13 and Holly smashed the women master’s record by 56 minutes in 4:42:23 with Christine just behind in 4:42:57. Gary Fuerst got to run and finished in 4:49:11. Glen Zirbel set a senior masters record of 7:36, Tom Reich took 48 minutes off the grand masters record with a 5:35:23 and Bob Chott knocked 22 minutes off the master’s record with a 4:08:10. After the 2002 race Gary turned the race directing job over to Victoria and David White who have served as RDs of the Double Chubb ever since. In 2003 a 25K was added to give interested runners a chance to sample a trail race, many of whom returned in subsequent years for their first trail 50K. The DC 25K/50K has become an extremely popular Midwest spring ultra. With on-line registration in 2011 the park-mandated limit of 120 runners filled in under 10 hours.
The Berryman Trail Marathon and 50 Mile ultramarathon had its roots in a fun run on the Berryman trail organized by Kevin Kepley and held on the July 4 holiday weekend in 1997. Kevin invited runners via the Ultrarunning Ultralist, and 5 or 6 folks ended up coming, including Norm and Joyce Yarger. In those early days a good part of the fun was camping overnight at the Berryman campground, enjoying a few beers, telling running war stories and in general having a good time with other runners, spouses and kids. 1998 and 1999 followed the same pattern with runners being invited to Berryman by Kevin for “fun runs”. In 2000 the Berryman “fun-run” became an official SLUG event with Kevin Kepley appropriately serving as race director. The date was changed to Memorial Day weekend. Rob Apple ran the race – his 302nd ultra – and David and Victoria White took over as RDs in 2002 and Kevin got to run the trail marathon. That year the race was held on May 26 and turned out to be another hot one for the marathoners and 50 milers. Kevin Guest won the 50 mile race with a new open record of 8:44:22. For Rob Apple, it was his 302nd ultra and he called the course “a true gem – a real find”. In 2002 there were 14 50 mile finishers and 23 marathon finishers. The US Forest Service placed a 150 runner limit on the Berryman races. By 2011 all slots were filled in 10 days.
SLUG Picnic – An Annual Tradition
The first SLUG picnic was held on July 16th, 2000 in Queeny Park. Club members, their families and race volunteers were invited. The following is from a write-up about the picnic in a 2000 SLUG newsletter. The morning started with Jan Ryerse staking out a picnic table area near the upper parking lot off of Weidman Road, and along with Jim and Judy Stroup, Ray Wagner, David White, Mark Williams, Mike Price and a few others ran a few loops of the 4 mile perimeter trail. While the runners sweated up a good thirst, family members and others arrived and set up the picnic area. The club furnished a few items and everyone brought a dish to share. There were venison burgers, brats, hot dogs, shish kabobs, all manner of slaws, macaroni, cakes, watermelon, and freshly home-made Canadian blueberry pie. Everyone sat around in the shade of the trees telling ultra stories. Ken DeBeer and Mike Price had the best bragging rights as they had just returned from Hardrock 100 finishes the week before. Many plans for fall ultra races were made that day. Then we got to the “awards” and games. The “ugliest feet” award went to Ryerse. After he showed his feet and toenails to “Judge Judy” no one else even bothered to take their shoes off! There were awards for oldest SLUG, youngest SLUG, SLUG who had travelled furthest to the picnic and the newest SLUG. Fleet Feet Sports donated gift certificates and other running items for the awards. The “water balloon toss”, was a great way to cool down on the hot day. The annual picnic was held in Queeny Park for several more years before being moved to Fenton City Park when it was incorporated into the Flatlanders weekend. It remains a very popular club activity.
The 6/12 hour Flatlanders race grew out of the efforts of James Mercer and Tom Reich. James organized a 6/12 hour Halloween ultramarathon held at Jefferson Barracks Park run October 30, 1999. Tom organized a 24 hour Muscular Dystrophy Association fund-raiser ultramarathon through the streets of his home subdivision of Sorrento Springs in west St. Louis County in August, 2000 and raised over $2000. Both of these events were low-key informal “fun runs”. At a SLUG meeting in 2004 it was decided to formalize a timed ultra to build on these ultras. Lee Hess suggested the 1.4 mile asphalt loop at Fenton City Park. A year later, in 2005 with Victoria and David White as RDs, the first Flatlanders race was run. The park only allows 70 runners and every year the limit has been reached. Over the years, more than $20,000 was collected for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The loop format continues to make it convenient for family and friends to watch or run/ride a few laps with their runner spouses and friends.
Spirit of the Osage50K / Frankenstein Marathon:
The 50K/Frankenstein marathon road race grew out of David White’s idea to have an ultra in Osage County at Halloween, starting and finishing in Frankenstein, Missouri. It was held on the last weekend of October and was first run in 2007 with David and Victoria White as RDs. The start/finish continued in that location for three years and then, for the 2010 race, was moved to roads with less traffic and a safer environment, starting and finishing at the White’s farm in Osage County. The changed course was well received however as anyone who has run these races will attest, central Missouri is not flat.
SLUG Officers and Newsletter Editors
Year President Secretary Treasurer Newsletter Editor
1998 Jan Ryerse David Giger David Giger -
1999 Kevin Kepley David Giger David Giger Jan Ryerse
2000 Jim Stroup Jan Ryerse Tom Reich Jan Ryerse
2001 Jim Stroup Jan Ryerse Tom Reich Jan Ryerse
2002 Jim Stroup Gwen Heist Tom Reich Jan Ryerse
2003 David White Gwen Heist Tom Reich Jan Ryerse
2004 David White Gwen Heist Carl Phillips Jim Stroup
2005 David White Andrew Karandjeff Carl Phillips Jim Stroup
2006 David White Andrew Karandjeff Carl Phillips Joan Bennett
2007 David White Andrew Karandjeff Carl Phillips Joan Bennett
2008 Lee Hess Andrew Karandjeff Carl Phillips Joan Bennett
2009 Lee Hess Carol Izodi Carl Phillips Joan Bennett
2010 Lee Hess Carol Izodi Carl Phillips Shannon Drohan
2011 Mike Linkogel Carol Izodi Carl Phillips Shannon Drohan
2012 Mike Linkogel, Carol Izadi, Carl Philips, Shannon Drohan
2013 Gary Fuerst, David Gibson, Carl Philips, Shannon Drohan
2014 Gary Fuerst, David Gibson, Carl Philips, Shannon Drohan
2015 Gary Fuerst, Susan Schenberg, Carl Philips
The name of the association shall be “St. Louis UltraRunners Group” hereafter referred to as the “association” or “organization”.
A. The prime object of the association shall be to promote trail, track and road ultrarunning in the greater St. Louis area.
B. In the furtherance of objective “A”, this association may
(1) Hold ad hoc meetings as required to make decisions about association organization and activities,
(2) Organize ultramarathons, and
(3) Conduct monthly fun-runs at which members of the association and others can participate.
The association shall be a chapter of the Road Runners Club of America, and all measures adopted by that body must be considered by this organization.
Individuals who want to participate in the activities of this organization shall submit dues and an application for membership.
V. Management or Governance
A. The management of this organization shall be vested in a Board of Directors consisting of a president and a secretary-treasurer.
B. Duties of Officers
(1) President – to preside over meetings, represent this association in the RRCA, to call any special meetings and to appoint committees and chairpersons thereof.
(2) Secretary-Treasurer – to record and maintain minutes of meetings, to accept assignments involving correspondence and to administer and maintain records of all fiscal appropriations.
C. Officers may be elected to succeed themselves.
D. Term of Office
(1) Term of office shall be about one year, beginning with or at the close of the first meeting held within the calendar year, and in no case beginning later than March 31.
(2) Offices filled upon resignation shall also expire at the time of the first meeting of the calendar year.
E. Elections – Officers shall be elected by a majority vote of those present at the meeting.
F. Procedural Requirements
(1) Parliamentary procedures will used at meetings, and every effort will be made to discuss any measures coming before the group.
(2) A majority vote of the members present is necessary to pass ordinary measures. All measures shall be deemed ordinary except those proposing a constitutional (bylaw) amendment.
(3) A quorum shall consist of twice the number of elected officers plus one. No official meeting shall be held unless a quorum is present.
(4) Bylaw Amendments
(a) A bylaw amendment may be accomplished by a two-thirds vote of the members present at the meeting.
(b) Only those who have been members of this organization for 30 days prior to the proposal of such amendment may vote.
(c) All members must be notified at least 7 days prior to voting that a bylaw amendment will be discussed and voted on.
A. Dues shall be determined by a majority of the members present at a meeting and shall not be changed more than once per year.
B. This is a non-profit organization. Dues, entry fees and other monies received by the organization will be spent entirely for carrying out the stated purpose of the organization.
C. No part of the net earnings of the club shall inure to the benefit of its individuals without the approval of club members.
D. Members using association funds for any purpose shall give a full record of expenditures to the treasurer.
E. This organization shall be empowered to participate in fund-raising activities.
F. The organization will submit a portion of the annual dues to the RRCA as membership in that body shall require.
In the event of dissolution of this association, the funds in the treasury, after all creditors have been paid, shall go to the Road Runners Club of America.