Seven Hills Running Club
History of the Club
The Seven Hills Running Club was formed at an organization meeting held in the First National Bank Building in Huntsville in September, 1985. The effort was led by Ken Johnson and Cheryl Sewell. Ken was elected president and Cheryl vice president. Jill Baine was elected secretary and Dr. Armond Start treasurer.
The name, Seven Hills Running Club, was chosen several weeks later from a list of about 50 possible names, most of which contained the word, “hills.” Anyone who has ever run in Huntsville will understand why the word, “hills,” had to be included in the name. “Seven Hills Running Club” was conceived by a secretary in the Texas Department of Corrections, Sylvia LaRue, who was not a member of the Club.
Back in its early days, Huntsville was known as the “Rome of Texas” because, like Rome, Italy, it was built on seven distinct hills.
The oldest Seven Hills Running Club roster is dated, October 8, 1985. It listed 29 members: Don, Diana, Wun and Gina Augustin, Jill Baine, Bill Carmichael, Bob Gooding, Barbara Hart, Ken, Marilynn, Lisa, Kenny, George, Mary and Ben Johnson, Doug Moore, Art Mosley, Lonnie and K. C. Odom, Dante Pena, Mike Pugh, Mark Renfro, Serena Rice, Cheryl Sewell, Pete and Lynne Springer, Armond and Judy Start and Phillip Townsend. Many others joined the Club as charter members in the coming months and membership rose to about 150.
It was decided from the start that the Seven Hills Running Club would be a club for all runners and potential runners. The Club promotes running as a means of achieving and maintaining physical fitness and a better life. Members do not have to be fast runners or marathoners nor are they expected to participate in all of the Club's activities. The Club strives to have a program that serves all of its members. The annual dues started out as $7 a year for a single membership and $10 for a family and these dues remain the same today.
Besides meetings and a monthly newsletter, dinners, guest speakers and monthly Club runs, the Seven Hills Running Club initiated and managed several races for the public. These races included the Great Escape 10K, Raven Run (5 miles), Charity Mile, Texas 10K Run and the Huntsville Half Marathon & 5K Run/Walk. These races not only brought a lot of visitors to Huntsville and promoted running in this city, the profits from these races were used to support local charities and purchase race equipment and operate the Club.
Unfortunately, in September 1995, ten years after it was formed, the Club floundered and was disbanded. The race equipment owned by the Club was donated to the YMCA and other non-profit organizations and the funds were donated to local charities. In July 1997, Sam Houston State University announced that they were dropping their annual Huntsville Quarter and Half Marathon after 19 years. This race had been held on the first Saturday of each October, in conjunction with the Fair on the Square in Huntsville. The attendance at the 1996 race had dropped to about 120 runners. Their decision to drop this race and the desire of former officers of the Seven Hills Running Club to take over management of the Huntsville Quarter and Half Marathon helped lead to the re-formation of the Club.
The Club was re-formed in July 1997. Marvin Dittfurth was elected president, Ken Johnson vice president, Esther Cousins secretary and True Cousins treasurer. The first order of business was to make plans for the 20th annual version of the race. A 5K run/walk was added to attract more local runners and walkers.
Under management by the Club, the 1997 Huntsville Quarter and Half Marathon and 5K Run/Walk drew 356 runners. The success of this race was marred by the death of Houston Police Officer, Gary L. Price, who suffered a massive heart attack 12½ miles into the 13.1-mile half marathon. Participation in the 1998 race, dedicated to the memory of Gary, grew to 440 runners. The 1999 race had a record 579 runners. Because of increased participation in the 5K Run/Walk, the Quarter marathon race was dropped for the 2000 race. The Huntsville Half Marathon & 5K Run/Walk continues to be held each year. The Quarter Marathon (6.55 miles) was added in 2012.
The Seven Hills Running Club continues to have monthly Club Runs and publishes a monthly newsletter. Newsletters are sent out by email and also placed on the Xlub web site. The Club is a member of the Road Runners Club of America and all individual members enjoy membership in that organization. The Club is also a member of the Houston Road Runners Association (HARRA).
The Club will continue with its original goal of promoting running as a means of achieving and maintaining physical fitness in Huntsville and its surrounding communities.