When looking for answers to the early days of Tamalpa, one needs not look further than Kees Tuinzing. Kees was a pioneer in the running world of Marin (Along with his mother, Els), and to this day is part of the daily fabric of the running circles of Marin. Kees has slowed down a little, as he is now “upper 60 something”and he no longer runs (bad knees), but still is part of weekly workouts for dozens, if not hundreds of men and women.
Turn the clock back a few years and Kees pointed out to a number of factors that led to the running boom in the early and mid 1970’s, and those combinations of factors were also the genesis of the Tamalpa runners club.
In no particular order of importance the following happened, or WAS happening in the early 1970’s…. Frank Shorter won the Olympic gold medal for the USA in the marathon in 1972. This brought “jogging” more into the mainstream… Women were beginning to run, and it was partially for health, partially for vanity…. Dr. Joan Ullyot, a Harvard MD was doing blood chemistry research to see what effects training (running) would have on women’s health. Turned out the tests showed it a GOOD thing to run, so she was a pioneer in the medical field who encouraged women to run. (For many years, it was considered a risk to the women’s reproductive system)…. And, add to this mix, The Dipsea Race became popular to joggers as well as competitive runners in the early 1970’s….
Kees Tuinsing was a youthful 25 years old when he became the center of this perfect storm. His mom had taken to running and it was his parents home, up on Mount Tam, not far from the Mountain Home Inn, where Saturday morning runners would often visit after their work out. Kees naturally was an early runner with this mountain home in group. (He grew up an athlete, and ran track and cross country for Tam High school in the mid 1960’s.)
Up to this point, there were three running clubs in the City and North bay that attracted the majority of the hot runners. The Dolphin Club, the Olympic Club in San Francisco, and the Marin ACC. As Kees puts it, the Dolphin club was led by the legendary Walk Stack, and they had a bit of a social ring to their club, along with those all star runners. Marin ACC was loaded with great runners, including Daryl Beardall, Bryan Lowry, Don Makela, Bob Bunnell and Ron Elijah. They had little leadership and were a “hang loose” group, as Kees put it. The Olympic club was a shell of its glory years and did not boast huge numbers. One thing most of the great runners of these three clubs had in common was, The Dipsea Race. In the early 1970’s approximately 1,000 runners were entering every year. By 1976, as the running boom peaked, and Tamalpa had begun their charter the Dipsea race peaked at an unofficial 2,000 runners. (Read the Spitz book on the Dipsea to understand how the Dipsea race almost came to an end with that disastrous year of 1976, followed by the drought year of 1977.)
It was in 1974 or 1975 that Kees and a few others visualized a MARIN county based running club that would serve the purpose of all the other clubs, AND a little more. Something that Kees brought to the first years of Tamalpa, that other clubs lacked was STRUCTURE. Structure by way of the weekly workouts at the track, and weekend runs on the mountain. The track workouts were organized and advertised by the club. The Mountain Home Inn runs were low key, and went by word of mouth and were not advertised. However, make no mistake about it. The Mountain Home Inn group WAS a group of runners who were the nucleus of early Tamalpans and were all hard core athletes.
Kees has a difficult time remembering exact dates and exact moments that certain events occurred. He looks back on the early and mid 70s as a confluence of events that all crashed together, and what came out of it was the TAMALPA RUNNERS club. By 1977 the club (with the basis being the track workouts, visits to his parents house on Mount Tam after the runs, and weekend runs on the mountain to train for the Dipsea race) had established itself as “THE” Running club of Marin County. Monthly meetings were first held in the houses of early board members and presidents. Don Pickett, Jim McGowen, Gordon Stewart, Lisa Spielman, Alan Kreuzberger, Harry and Connine Hlavac were all heavily involved in the organization of the club. Don Pickett (and first wife, whose name was also Patty) hosted many fun runs and dinners at their Tiburon home.
While mentioning Don Pickett and his early influence, history will also point out it was Don who suggested the green and yellow colors be the colors of Tamalpas early running gear. Why? Look no further than the colors of Don’s alma mater, the University of Oregon.
The club Kees orignailly visualized remains what Tamalpa still is today: A running club that organizes runs for competitive runners, as well as offer training to the less competitive runners, AND service as a club for social interaction. As Kees points out, “Everyone was welcome. It was not an elitist group.” He also points out that Pre- Tamalpa clubs in the bay area may have had some women as active members, but it was The Tamalpa runners club who actively encouraged women to run, AND provided the programs (track work outs – group runs) to encourage the “ladies”. The Christmas party began as a yearly tradition almost from day one. One social event that has long been forgotten were the “Monthly Marauds”. In these Marauds, Tamalpans (mostly pretty good runners) would all convoy to local races around the bay area and “whoop it up”, run hard, and win most age groups. It had a real collegiate-camaraderie feel to it.
The TCRS races were a low key way to socially race against your peers every month. These races have become the mainstay of Tamalpa traditional events.
A few years back, Tamalpa celebrated their 25th anniversary with a group run, and cutting of a cake at the Mountain Theater. Old timers were there, and stories were shared about the early days.
The colorful history is one of timing, luck, and a great deal of leadership from Kees Tuinzing. As the year 2014 progresses, Kees is still actively leading groups and organizing runs. (Now he leads while on his bike) Don Pickett is still living in Tiburon, but his running days are behind him. Most others of the early 1970’s have moved on or passed on. The Tamalpa Runners club has long since become an ingrained part of fabric of Marin County. It’s a running club, social club, and staple to many available groups who enjoy the proximity and beauty of Mount Tamalpais. Long live the Tamalpa Runners Club.
The year was 1976. This was the Dark Ages of Running. We didn't have proper food (no PowerBars!), drink (no Cytomax!) or clothing (no Lycra!). But we did have a brand new running club. All it needed was a name. The three loudest voices at that first meeting of the club were Kees Tuinzing (our first president), Don Pickett (the '68 Dipsea winner, now know as Mr. Dipsea) and Tommy Tamalpa (that's me!).
Kees, Don and I spent the entire evening arguing about the name. I wanted to name the club after our new president. I still think "The Keeshonds" would have been a great name for our club. Kees wanted to name the club after our most famous runner, "The Pickett's Chargers." Don, who is my personal hero, said, "Let's name the damn club after my buddy, Tommy Tamalpa. That way no one will think they have to be a great, or even good, runner to join the club. And they'll know that it's okay to party a little after a run."
Despite my blushing protests, the name was adopted, but not the "Tommy Guns," as I'd hoped.
From the very beginning, Tamalpa Runners has been dedicated to the proposition that not all runners are created equal, but everyone in the club can have a great time running. Therefore, we sponsor competitive racing teams, as well as offering group fun runs on some the prettiest trails in America. We also believe that a good party can be as much fun as a good run, and trust old Tommy when I say, we have good parties.
Our racing teams have enjoyed considerable success over the years (probably because I have rarely disgraced a team with my presence). But I've been happy to see the Tamalpa name on winning teams in AAU, TAC and USATF competition, individual champions, national and world age-group record holders, Olympic Trial competitors, and Dipsea champions. And speaking of Tommy Tamalpa's favorite race, we have won the Dipsea team title 25 years in a row!
But enough about those fast times on a runner's high, let's talk about the History of Tamalpa since the beginning.
We are an allegedly democratic organization with free elections open to all of our 700+ dues-paying members. And since I've been in the club (which is even before the beginning) we've actually had some contested elections. I remember throwing my hat in the ring to run against Kees Tuinzing for president. I believe that I received at least one vote (probably my own). After Kees stepped down to become a rich and famous race organizer, he was followed in office by Gordon Stewart, Chris Johnson, Dick Hayden, Jim Furman, Jim Myers, Jerry Leith, Barb Frazier, Craig Stern, Sandy Cipinko, and our current grande enchilada, Bernie Hollander. As any of these august club politicians can testify, being president of Tamalpa is its own reward, especially during one of our free-wheeling board meetings/pizza parties.
Our club is held together by one of the greatest journalistic endeavors this side of My Weekly Reader-a paper famous from downtown to Dogtown, the Tamalpa Gazette. This journal is more than a mere listing of club events; it's a veritable fount of information about everything you wanted to know about running but were too anaerobic to ask. The literary quality of this monthly sheet rose to new heights when my column ("Tommy Tamalpa's Tattletales") was canceled back in '85 after one my little jokes caused 127 runners to resign from the club.
Another ridiculously popular (if not just plain ridiculous) Tamalpa institution is TCRS. No one actually knows what the letters stand for, but one guess is Totally Crazy RaceS. All you need to know about TCRS is that they are held every month except June (in honor of the Dipsea) and December (in honor of the Tamalpa Christmas Party hangovers), and that everyone claims that they are completely "low key." They may be low tech (popsicle sticks!) and low cost (three bucks!), but there is nothing low key about the battles in the front, middle and back of the pack between seemingly mild-mannered Tamalpans. Although founded in 1983 by Mark Alan Warford, the success of TCRS can be attributed to Russ and Marilyn Kiernan. Russ (known as "Mr. Russ" to his close friends) designs the courseswhich are often suited to his mountain-goat running abilitiesand Marilyn (a.k.a. "Mrs. Russ") organizes the finish line with ruthless efficiency.
In the past few years Tamalpa has been moving in seemingly opposite directions. Some well-meaning, but obviously misguided, souls have devoted most of their waking hours to coaching young children to become runners. You can imagine the consternation of a few of us more, ah, more mature runners when we're getting our butts kicked in races by little kids who should be home eating Ding Dongs and playing video games. I personally blame Susie Van Buskirk and Craig Stern for this outrageous indignity.
The opposite of those fast little kids are these absolutely insane ultra runners who have been seeking some sort of political asylum inside Tamalpa Runners, Inc. It was bad enough when our top runners began winning black shirts in the Dipsea and then grabbing silver belt buckles in the Western States 100 in the same month! Don't these people realize that they could use some rest. But no! They spend the rest of their time finding the fastest ultra runners in the Bay Area and somehow convincing them to join this august organization. Despite my very antipathy toward any race longer than 7.2 miles, Tamalpa now has one of the finest ultra teams in the United States.
I'm sure that I've forgotten most of the important part of the History of Tamalpa 2.01, but I can't end this diatribe without saying that we've all had a great time running together since 1971, before the club was even founded, and we'll continue doing so. So, if you're not already part of the fun, join us!
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For more information, click on the event. For many more racing options, see Frank's This and That above.
Feb 12 - TCRS # 2, Novato