Toledo’s Marathon History — Running Ohio Since 1971
A Spring, Road Runner Club of America Championship, Boston Qualifier Marathon — Run in Late April at the University of Toledo
The Beginning: 1971 – 1983
The very first Glass City Marathon started and finished at the University of Toledo on June 20, 1971. Sy Mah ran the race that day, as did two Churchills (Walt Jr., a key founder of the Toledo Roadrunners Club, and Walt III) and a runner named Fred Lebow who came all the way from New York City. We hear that Lebow accomplished some things later back East and are glad we could give him some ideas. The race remained on Fathers’ Day and anchored at the University of Toledo until 1981 when the race was moved to the Fall and to Side Cut Park of the MetroParks of Toledo. In 1983 the race moved to downtown Toledo and was titled the Pepsi Challenge Glass City Classic Marathon. Despite the seeming momentum of a new downtown course, Pepsi did not renew its sponsorship and the race fell dormant for the next six years.
2013 and 2014 saw continued growth topping 7,000 in 2014 with the Owens Corning Half Marathon selling out for the sixth consecutive year.
In 1990, after six years without a Glass City Marathon, Pam agreed to help renew the event, became the race director and played a major role in the resurrection of a Northwest Ohio running tradition.
Pam was also a TRRC Sy Mah Award recipient, the award the club bestows for lifetime achievement to the club and the sport.
Pam passed away on July 4, 2011. In 2012, the Toledo Roadrunners Club Scholarship Fund in Honor of Pam Graver-Koenig was established. For more information on the scholarship or to give please go to the Toledo Roadrunners site.
The Sy Mah Memorial Scholarship at the University of Toledo was established in 1990 by his friends and family with financial support from the Toledo Roadrunners Club. In addition to meeting various academic standards, qualified recipients within the College of Health Science and Human Service are required to be “avid social runners.”
Mah ran the Glass City Marathon several times, including at the inaugural event in 1971. Runners in the Glass City Marathon pass by a life-size statue of Mah in Olander Park Mah is believed to have said, “I believe Americans have been brainwashed with the idea that they must do less because increased age will result in less energy and diminished capacity. I have found this is simply not true if a person does not allow his mind to accept the traditional view of aging.”
The very first Glass City Marathon. Start and finish at the University of Toledo. Probably the most prominent memory of this race was the extreme heat and humidity. It was 80 degrees at the start and reached a high of 92 at the finish. Of the 175 starters only 106 finished under the hand lettered finish banner on UT’s track. A full 40% of the field dropped out. Of the four women starters, only one Finished! The overall winner of the race was brian Sobczak from Maple Heights, OH with a time of 2:36:02.
The first female was Kathy Miller of Syracuse, NY in 3:47. According to The Blade’s story the next day, Miller, having a PR of 3:15, was one of the top 4 female marathoners in the world!! You’ve come a long way.
A review of the material from the race shows some interesting items. The entry fee was $2.00 and late registration was $4.00. The age groups were different from today’s norm: 15 and under, 16 to 18, 19 to 29, 30 to 39, and 40 and over. While on the subject of age groups, 57 of the finishers were under 20, and only 11 were over 40. At the time, marathons and marathoners were so unique and misunderstood that The Blade saw it fit to feature the first GCM in the Sunday Parade section
The first local finisher was Sandy Turner of Sylvania in 3:05. Next was Walt Churchill III in 3:10. An unknown named Sy Mah ran the race in 3:43. He was beaten by a precocious 13 year-old named Mark Lohman in 3:40. Other local runners of note: George Puehl, 3:25; former TRRC President Walt Churchill Jr, 3:27; and Larry Armstrong, 3:51. There was also a funny looking guy in a cycling cap from New York City named Fred Lebow finishing in 4:20.
1972: Wally Rodriquez, 2:27:06 – Rose Thomas, 3:35 – June 18, 1972
This year the marathon gods smiled upon the race and the temperatures were unseasonably cool. Two hundred and two runners started and 179 finished. This marked the beginning of local phenom Wally Rodriquez’s domination of road racing in these parts. Wally cruised home in 2:27:06 finishing 6 seconds ahead of Dan Price from Tiffin. After the race, Wally, who ran for the People’s Track Club, a sixties icon if there ever was one, said “I just ran in a meet yesterday and I didn’t know how I would do!” At that meet Wally ran a 4:11 mile. Rich Lachowski confirmed it, “Yeah, he really did!” Heading the field of four women was Rose Thomas of Sharon, PA in 3:35.
Runners of note: Rich Lachowski, 2:38; Mark Lohman, now approaching puberty at age 14 ran a 3:14; Sy Mah, 3:18; Dick Bowers, 3:31; Lou Wagner, 2:47; and Rick Syre, 2:48.
The race results listed all the men by their normal first and last names, while every woman was identified with a Mrs. or a Miss designation. A pre-race story appeared in The Blade describing a Dr. Douglas Austin who was blind and attempting to run the race guided by a bicycle guide. He did not appear among the finishers.
1973 Sid Sink, 2:32 – Sigrid Nadon, 3:18
The race continued to be on Father’s Day. One hundred eighty-six of 230 (80%) runners managed to finish on a typically hot June day. Sid Sink, an All-American from Bowling Green, won the race in 2:32. Sigrid Nadon was the women’s winner in 3:18, twenty-five minutes faster than her time the previous year.
“Running marathons is just a sidelight for me right now”, said Sink. Sid went on to describe his diet before the race. Some of our veteran runners will recognize it as the old carbohydrate depletion diet. “On Monday and Tuesday my diet was 90% protein. On Friday and Saturday it was 90% carbohydrate. The idea is to super pack your body with carbohydrates.”
The third edition of the GCM was the eighth largest race in the United States and the second largest of the 30 midwest marathons!
1974 Jason Lindsey, 2:27:49 – Sigrid Nadon, 3:12
The GCM continued to grow and prosper. A record 252 starters and 215 finishers toured the course on a spectacular clear cool day. Jason Lindsey from Oxford, OH was the men’s winner in 2:27:49, only 43 seconds off the course record. Sigrid Nadon of Toledo was the overall women’s winner for the second year in a row. She also broke her own course record by six minutes with a time of 3:12.
Lou Wagner, running in his second GCM, had this to say about his early marathoning experience, “We would train hard all winter then run Boston, Revco, and the Glass City, then we would wonder why our legs were dead all summer. We didn’t know any better in those days.”
1975 Don Slusser III, 2:28:19 – Rose Thomas, 3:38:54
Once again the weather was a huge factor in the race. The race started with temperatures in the high 60’s and very high himidity. Only 213 of a record 271 starters were able to finish the race. Don Slusser III of Pittsburg, PA won the race with a time of 2:28:19. Just two months prior, Slusser had run the Boston Marathon in 2:25. Rose Thomas won the GCM for the second time with a 3:38:54. Local runners among the top 50 included: Lou Wagner, 2:41; and Henry Taylor, 3:18.
1976 Don Slusser III, 2:26:44 – Alexa Kraft, 3:01:56
Pre-race talk centered on the brutal weather conditions leading up to the race. Temperatures were in the 90’s with matching humidity. However, race day dawned with mild conditions and low humidity. Two hundred and thirteen of the two hundred and forty-nine starters finished. The cool weather set up the best “race” ever at the GCM. Don Slusser and Rick Callison raced side by side for 26 miles. Then on the track Slusser surged to a 2 second gap and was able to hold that margin for the last 300 yards. Slusser finished in 2:26:44 winning for the second time and establishing a new record. All of this came after finishing 9th at the Boston Marathon two months prior. Detroit’s Alexa Kraft destroyed the women’s record with a time of 3:01:56, 36 minutes ahead of second place finisher Rose Thomas.
Local runners included: Rich Lachowski, 2:32; John Gores, 2:39; Dave Mason, of Dave’s Performance Gear, 2:42; Mark Lohman, 2:44; Jim Petiniot, 3:06; Rick Trame, 3:36; Gary Bryan, 2:34; local exercise magnate Paul Warshawsky, 3:05; and Frank Hanak, 3:13.
1977 Matt McGowan, 2:27:17 – Kitty Consolo, 3:15
Four hundred and thirty runners toed the line on a outstanding day for marathoning. Matt McGowan of Circleville (future editor of RunOhio) was the first to cross the finish line with a time of 2:27:17. TRRC member Kitty Consolo was the first woman in with 3:14:39. Rich Lachowski ran in or near the lead for the first half before fading slightly to 4th in 2:33:22.
Sy Mah recorded his 100th marathon with a time of 3:18:18. Other locals were: Steve Kaczor, 2:49; Harry Austeran, 2:39; Ron Cole, 3:14; Jill Robarge, 3:45; Fred Finiske, 4:12. Tom Kovacs, Jeaneen Bonkowski, Lisa Rupp, Brad Adams, and Ken Detloff also ran.
Paul Cruetz recalls his GCM experience, “I had to drag my right foot for the last 4 miles. It totally wore out my shoe. I promised God, ‘Get me though this and I will never do it again’.”
1978 David McDonald, 2:23:36 – Gina Zambrano 3:14
The largest field ever assembled for the race. Preregistration reached 893 runners with 610 finishing. In spite of typically warm weather, three runners finished under the old record. David McDonald was the winner in 2:23:36 followed by Matt McGowan in 2:24:00 and Jerome White in 2:25:59.
A record 41 women finished the race led by Gina Zambrano in 3:14. Iris Black was second in 3:21. Note that Iris’s age group was listed as 30 and over.
T.J. Sheehy described his last 400 meters as, “I was going all out and moving everything, arms, legs, you name it. But I wasn’t going anywhere.” Sound familiar? T.J. finished in 3:16. Others were Lou Wagner, 2:37; Joe Caruso, 2:47; Ed Dibble, 3:01; Lorna Ritchey, who was to go on to international fame as an ultra-runner, 3:41; young Stormi-Ann Guntch 4:17 and future champion Bob McOmber 2:33.
1979 Bob McOmber, 2:24:44 – Iris Black 3:04
The year of the controversies. Kenneth Archer was the first one to cross the finish line in 2:22:54, almost two minutes ahead of Bob McOmber, 2:24:44. The controversy arose because Archer was a wheelchair runner. This was the first time anyone could remember the overall winner being in a wheelchair. Race Director, Art Johnson, after consulting with Archer, decided Archer would be given a special award for finishing girst but that Bob McOmber would be declared the winner.
Ever gracious McOmber declared, “Archer is a super athlete.” Archer had won the wheelchair division at Boston in April. Forty-four year old Brian Harris was third or second depending on your point of view in 2:32. Iris Black led the women’s field with a time of 3:04. Former Toledoan Kathy Resseguire was second in 3:17.
There were other “controversies” as well. Six year old Bucky Cox ran the race in 4:07 sparking a national debate on the merits of running marathons at an early age. Jim Petiniot added to the excitement when he decided to spend a little “quality time” with an abusive motorist at about 22 miles. Jim was then known as, “One Punch Petiniot.”
Others running: Sy Mah recorded marathon number 142; Joe Caruso, 2:33; Lou Wagner, 2:35; Rich Lachowski, 2:35; Dirk Armstrong, 2:53; Lorna Ritchey, 3:23; Don Briggs, 3:36; club president George Isom, 3:59. Former Toledoan and now Voice of the Ironman, Mike Reilly returned home to run 2:56, and ageless wonder Lynn Edwards did a 4:15. Lynn is also the oldest female to ever complete the Ironman.
1980: Don Slusser III, 2:22:36 – Lynn Fudala, 2:59:49
The tenth edition of the GCM saw both men’s and women’s records fall. University of Michigan runner Lynn Fudala become the first woman to go under the 3 hour barrier with a 2:59:49 in hir first marathon. Don Slusser was once a gain the men’s winner with a record time of 2:22:36. This is still the GCM record.
Sy Mah, running his 173rd marathon, also completed his tenth GCM as did James Brod of Gahanna. Gary Bryan was the top Toledo finisher in 2:29. Lorna Ritchey was the first local female in 3:15.
This was to be the last GCM run on Father’s Day and on the old Brookside course. Giving in to pressure for a more racer friendly time and course, the decision was made to hold the race in the fall and run along the Maumee River.
1981: Gary Bryan, 2:30:51 – Leslie Cohen, 3:09:51
In spite of moving to a better time it was a hot and humid day for the field of 610 starters and 447 finishers. The race started and ended at Side Cut metropark. TRRC member Gary Bryan won the race in 2:30:51. Leslie Cohen of Athens, OH won the female division in 3:09:51.
Race Director Ellsworth Shriver added a unique twist to the results. He incorporated your pace for the whole race and then he also gave your pace for the last 10K. More than a few runners were amused by splits. Leslie Cohen displayed an unwavering sense of pace. Her first 5 miles were run at a 7:14 pace, the last 10K at a 7:15 and the whole race at 7:15. On the other hand Archie Call went out at 7:03 for 5 miles and averaged 8:35 overall but his last 10K was at an undoubtedly painful 11:20.
Also new to the race was the pre-race spathetti dinner and a race seminar. The seminar speakers included Mike Oliver, a representative for Karhu running shoes (I never heard of them either). Dr charles Marlowe, local podiatrist and Sid Sink, the 1973 winner.
Pam Graver, 3:56; her first and her slowest, Marlene Rodriquez, 4:00; Mike McKelvey, 3:01; Mitch Freeman, 3:01; Mike Pellechaty, 3:06; Bob Franklin, 2:48; Steve Hyder, 3:12; and Chuck Shultz, 3:01 also ran the race. Oldest finisher Nat Hefner, 70, of West Virginia finished in 4:13:35.
1982: Mark Lohman, 2:25:46 – Lorna Ritchey, 3:20:42
Unfortunately, another new wrinkle was added to the race. Call it the Rosie Ruiz Fallout. The race form emphatically stated that, “The GCM will be using computer assisted systems to detect cheating. In addition to race marshals, there will be several unannounced checkpoints during the race.”
Once again, Kenneth Archer was the first across the finish line in 2:12. Mark Lohman was the the first “runner” to finish in 2:25:46 with George Rodriquez second in 2:36:52. Lorna Ritchey was the first woman in 3:20:42. Her time would have been a little faster except she had to take a forced rest while she waited for a train to pass which allowed her competitors to catch up. Louise Miklovic finished second and Mary Hanudel third.
Following are some excerpts from an essay written by Jim Loshbough describing his experience and his “theory”.
“I guess it is every runner’s dream to participate in a marathon someday. I was no different when it came to training. I didn’t want to.
I also had a theory to try out. If a runner moves at a pace that is comfortable and he doesn’t have to breathe too hard, he can run all day. I had it all planned. My comford zone is a 9:20 mile. To be sure, I would go out at 9:40. I wanted to average about a 10 minute mile for the whole race.
On that Sunday morning I stood there right at the starting line with all the leaders. I am no dummy. If others want to run to the starting line, let them. I am not going to run any farther than I have to. After a while I noticed Tom Loomis standing by his car watching the run. I wondered why he wasn’t in the race. I guess he didn’t know my secret.
At 12 miles my wife gives me some fluids and asks how I feel. “Great!” I lied. Something was happening to me. My neck, hips, and feet were hurting. How come the water stops were getting farther apart?
I hit the 19 mile mark and had to take my first walk break. Holy cow, it even hurts to walk. My mind tells me that if I can’t finish with dignity, I won’t finish at all. I throw in the towel and sit down by the side of the road to wait for someone to pick me up. It looks like my theory might just have some flaws in it.
Will I try again next year? I can hardly wait. I’ll crawl on all fours to the finish if I have to . You see, I have this new theory. If you can crawl on all fours in your comfort zone, you can crawl all day.”
1983: Bob Franklin, 2:25:39 – Mary Hanudel, 3:04:10
The race was making major progress. In the race materials were three pages of instructions for the water stops! The race had a name change also, it was now known as the Pepsi Challenge Glass City Classic Marathon. The course was also changed to start and finish downton. Two local women who were to go on to international fame as ultra-distance runners came in first and second. Mary Hanudel won the women’s race in 3:04:10 and finished 33rd overal just ahead of Lorna Ritchey in 3:15:10.
Bob Franklin devastated the field with the largest winning margin ever in 2:25:39. Runner-up Dan Reardon was in at 2:37. Reardon recalls, “Tom Sheehy was riding his bike along beside me. I asked him at about the 12 mile point to ride up and see how far ahead Franklin was. He came back about 10 minutes later and said, ‘Forget it Dan. You’re racing for second’!”
Among the runners: Pam Graver, 3:30; Cindy Ciampa, 4:18; Patty Phillips, 3:34; Ruth Fleck, 4:11; Craig Kalmbach, 2:57; Ross Deye, 2:37; Ken Kovacs 2:59; John Gray, 2:49; Darrell Rigs, 3:29; Mark Beck, 3:27, and Jeff Bunker, 3:11. No word on Jim Loshbough.
Alas, in spite of a great new course, the GCM was to go into hibernation for the next six years. Pepsi had pulled as a major sponsor. When another one could not be found soon enough the race just sort of withered and died. However, like the mythical Phoenix, the GCM arose from the ashes for what we hope will be a long new life.
In 1989 Bruce Beverage, Gary Lake, and Mitch Balonek began discussing trying to revive the GCM. A race director was found in Pam Graver, “Bruce asked and I couldn’t refuse.” A major sponsor was picked up in Toledo Hospital’s Sports Care (use it). The course was refined to take even better advantage of the Maumee River. A race expo was added with a hevy hitter speaker brought in. Joe Henderson, editor of Runner’s World. And finally, a spiritual inspiration was found by running the race in the memory of the late Sy Mah.
Sy died in 1988. At the time of his death he held the world record for most marathons run by an individual with 524. No, that is not a misprint – 524. Sy influenced many people to enjoy the marathon distance, in particular Lorna Ritchey and Mary Hanudel.
“He was such a proponent of Toledo and the marathon we just felt it would be a really fitting tribute to him to name our race after him. The running community owes him a lot.” says Pam Graver.
1990: Gary Bryan, 2:29:31 – Sarah Davis, 2:54:50
“A Marathon Reborn” read the headline in OhioRunner. Four hundred fifty-four individuals and 4 wheelchair entries started the race in fog and finished in bright sunshine on a slightly chilly morning. Gary Bryan, 2:29:31, led a pack of Toledoans to top placings. Jim Heebsh, 2:33:43; Bob McOmber, 2:34:13; Dennis Scott, 2:40:33 and Ellsworth Braley, 2:40:43 rounded out the top 5.
Sarah Davis set a new standard for the women with a 2:54:50. Rhonda Massey, 3:14:40, finished in the runner-up spot. Louise Miklovic, 3:28; Joan Mathews, 3:35 and Mailyn Rosinski, 4:21, also ran. Among the men finishers were Randy Scott, 3:31; Larry Fleck, 3:46; Scott McGarity, 3:26; Gary Tarsha, 3:29; and John Hojancki 3:58.
First time marathoner Randy Scott said, “I was surprised at how emotional I was at the finish line and how good it felt. About four hours later I could hardly walk.”
1991: Glenn Miller, 2:36:27 – Susan Hickey, 3:06:21
Once again a local runner came away with the victory. Sylvania’s own Glenn Miller, 2:36:27 pulled away from Mark Brmia, 2:36:35 in the last two miles to post a win. Susan Hickey, 3:06:21, was the first woman, finishing ahead of Penny Grandstaff, 3:08:24 and Kristen Mullaney, 3:14:55.
Among the 454 runners completing the course were Esmond Mah, Sy’s nephew, doing his 100th in 3:18; Ed Osborne, 2:45; John Gottschalk, 2:56; Don Gjurasin, 2:59; John Flahie, 3:15; Gil Gilmore, 3:32; Tom Falvey, 3:46; Harold Foote, 4:20; and Ann Fleck, 4:31. Luke Skywalker also made an appearence with a 3:55. Check it out for yourself. He really did.
1992: Tom Wilhelm, 2:32:02 – Penny Grandstaff, 3:05:27
The following is an excerpt from an article by John Bergener that appeared in the Blade.
Her legs were pinned beneath the dashboard of her Firebird. From the wasit down, Colette Long didn’t feel anything. It was raining that night two years ago when a van smashed into her car as she tried to make a left hand turn. Two weeks earlier she had completed her first half-marathon. The doctors said her pelvis was fractured in two places, that she had a broken collar bone, a fractured ankle, and a fractured foot. ‘There was always the question if I’d ever recover fully. But I knew if I could walk again I could run. I promised myself that if I was given my legs back I would run a marathon’.
Colette Long finished the GCM in 3:37:30. “Compared to what I had been through, the pain was nothing.”
Near ideal weather conditions greeted the 52 starters and 407 finishers. Penny Grandstaff and Kristen Mullaney put the staff in a bit of a quandry when they ran the entire race together and crossed the finish line holding hands. Forced to determine a winner, Grandstaff was awarded first with a 3:05:27. Mullaney was not upset. “Penny and I have been friends since last year and this is such a friendly marathon.”
Tom Wilhelm went wire to wire to win in 2:32:02 ahead of Bill Valenzano at 2:34:12. Tom was formerly a seldom used defensive end for Fremont St. Joe High School when he decided he was better suited for running. Wise choice. Also in the field were 3 blind runners, one wheelchair, and Norm Franks attempting and completing his 450th marathon.
In an attempt to lure more participants to the race a new wrinkle was added–the relay team. Twelve teams of five entered, adding 60 participants who otherwise would not have been part of the race.
Running vagabond, author, travel agent, and speaker Hal Higdon was the featured speaker for the pre race expo.
1993: Bill Valenzano, 2:34:11 – Marybeth Dillen, 2:59:22
Pete Buehler described this year’s race as the year of the rlelay. Forty-four teams entered, a 375% increase from 1992. The 225 participants combined with the 352 individuals. Ken Matuszak researched other races and added more divisions for the relayers. Each team carried their own sash to make them easier to identify. The talk locally centered on how to get the fastest team possible and on the rumors of importing a ringer or two for your team.
Bill Valenzano moved up from his runner-up spot in ’92 to win in 2:34:11, almost three minutes ahead of former champion Gary Bryan, 2:37:55. Marybeth Dillen won the women’s division in 2:59:22. Jill Luebke, 3:02:55 was second.
1994: Tom Fries, 2:28:17 – Jill Ortman 3:04:15
From the year of the relay to the year of the records. Tom Fries set a course record of 2:28:17. A record 55 relay teams started. Norm Frank fittingly tied Sy Mah’s record at the race named for him with his 524th marathon, and Bud Badyna set the record for running backward in a marathon posting a 3:53:19.
Patrick DeWine was the second finisher in 2:30:53. On the wom