Terry Cathcart retiring as Spring Runoff director
It may not take a village to conduct a Spring Runoff road race but that’s not much of a stretch.
One who knows all about that is Terry Cathcart, a realtor who has served as the Runoff’s race director for the past 11 years and is running the show for the last time, with Daryl Clark set to take over next year. Terry is well aware of the real but mostly unknown rule in the world of running: That the number of volunteers needed to conduct a race efficiently increases at an exponentially greater rate than the increase in the number of participants. He’s seen that up close ever since the race moved from Pueblo’s North Side to Dutch Clark Stadium in 2001.
“Using the River Trail system and finishing in the stadium have made a big difference and our numbers have grown every year,” Cathcart pointed out, recalling how the Runoff had just over 250 finishers when it was held in Northridge the year before he became race director, succeeding local attorney Matt Martin who directed it for five years. Compare that to the past two years, when the race had 888 finishers in 2009 and a staggering 1,195 finishers last year, plus the toddlers.
The Pueblo Chieftain-sponsored Runoff, set for its 33rd adventure this Sunday, has grown into a giant, but a gentle one with lots of amenities that runners and walkers love. The venue at Dutch Clark is superb for its parking, ultra-wide starting line and an exciting and motivating finish on the track inside the stadium. It has a race distance for everyone, fun courses to run, quality shirts, great medals for place finishers and custom woodwork awards, produced by Bob Sweeney, to the overall winners.
But most serious participants also want good race support – meaning a well-marked course with an adequate number of course marshals, well-staffed water stops, efficient registration and packet pickup processes, and accurate and timely results. That’s where the volunteers come into play.
“I think we had 96 volunteers one year and I really don’t know how many we’ll have this year because we get a lot of help from organizations,” Terry said, noting that he never knows how many people each organization will bring.
Many individuals and local high school teams and student groups help by handling aid stations or being course marshals. Dozens of members of the Southern Colorado Runners help produce the race.
SCR member Larry Volk is the official race photographer. Coordinating the 2-mile, 1-mile Funner to be a Runner or toddler races are Kim Arline, Jeff Arnold, Deb and Rich Hadley, Marilyn Vargas and Jacqueline Wall. The Funner to be a Runner was actually started by Pat Berndt, who has three kids who have run competitively.
Cathcart mentioned Dave Diaz, who runs the finish line team and has helped with countless chores over the years including on-field announcing, as being a tremendous help. Don and Lois Pfost and Ron Dehn have been mainstays in the finish chute as was Diana Reno in past years. Producing the results are Paul LaBar and Paulette Arns, and doing pre-race data entry has been Jacqueline Wall. Race-day registration help has been provided by Ruth McDonald and Shelley Riddock, owners of the Gold Dust Saloon, and Chieftain employees have handled packet pickup. SCR members who direct traffic in the parking lot and on the course are Brenda and Mark Koch, Phil Quattlebaum, Brian Ropp, Dennis Wait and Stan Wren. There is Mike Archulete’s team of lead bicyclists. Anthony Diaz, Mike Orendorff and Bill Veges have helped in many crucial ways over the years.
It’s fitting that it was Cathcart who came up with the idea of moving the Runoff to Dutch Clark. He had attended the Bolder Boulder to watch son Steve run and thought a stadium finish would work here.
“Traffic was becoming a problem (at the Northridge site), and I suggested to Paulette Stuart (long-time Chieftain promotions manager and co-race director) that she contact the stadium people and see if we could do it there,” he said.
Cathcart’s Runoff roots actually were planted in the inaugural Runoff in 1979, held at Pueblo Mall and which he attended to watch his son Steve run. But Race Director Mike Spence, a Chieftain reporter/editor in the Sports Department, asked him to help at the turnaround on Platteville Road. Mike drove Terry and his other son, Brian, to that spot while it was snowing sideways before the race began.
Terry helped as a volunteer during most of the races over the years, missing only a few years to watch son Steve run for Western State, where he was a multiple All-American in cross country and track. Steve has stepped up by bringing down water jugs with him from his home in Fort Collins and has announced award winners on the public address system after finishing his race.
There have been mostly Runoff highs for Cathcart over the years, like helping at the finish line when Pat Porter of Alamosa won the men’s 10K in 1983 and 1984. Or watching Steve be the overall winner nearly a dozen times in different race distances, and seeing son Brian win the men’s 5K race in 2001, the first year it was held at Dutch Clark. Another highlight was watching Steve win both the 5K and the 10-mile races in 2000 when those two started an hour apart in Northridge.
For many of those Runoffs, Terry helped long-time Race Director Andy Ballou, then continued to volunteer while Rich Barrows and then Martin served as director. Once he got in the driver’s seat himself, he was seeing the organizational aspect from a whole new perspective.
“When I was first starting this, I was calling Ben Valdez every day for advice because of his experience from doing so many races,” Cathcart recalled. Valdez conducted several high-qualify road races and triathlons in Pueblo and Pueblo West while on the Pueblo YMCA staff.
There have been some difficult moments. The weather hasn’t always cooperated since early March is unpredictable time to have a race. Also, Terry recalls the scrambling that ensued after his second or third year as race director when local runner and SCR member Marijane Martinez moved to Las Vegas.
“Marijane handled all the water stops with her family, and it was real blow when she moved away,” he said. “She was the one that got so many SCR members involved by saying that it was a club event and that the whole club should get involved.” Nick Leyva provided much aid station help.
But club members did indeed step up and the race organization has gotten stronger over the years. The addition of Steve Cathcart’s Time Machine recorder has been integral to the speedup of generating race results, and the SCR has added a second and more advanced such piece of equipment.
They’ll be at it again this Sunday as Terry Cathcart bows out as race director, and their numbers will indeed resemble an entire village.
Send comments and fitness information to Gary Franchi via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.