A Brief History of the Stony Creek Distance Run
In August 1971, Stony Creek Metropark organized the first Stony Creek Distance Run. It was advertised as a race around the park, starting in the overflow lot of Eastwood Beach and circling the inside shoulder of the road in a clockwise direction. The individual who was instrumental in creating the race was Tom Loll, a seasonal employee in the park’s operations department. Tom ran track and cross-country in college and was a teacher at Romeo High School.
This course was used during the first two years and the participants ran on the road shoulder. The bike path was not constructed until 1976-1978. Interestingly, this created an odd race distance. At this time just about every race in the U.S. was using the mile measurements but this course was about 6.1 miles. The race in 1971 proved successful, so it was continued the following year when about 50 runners-almost all male-took off about 10:00 a.m. on a sunny, mid-80 degree day. No water stops were provided.
Due to safety concerns regarding runners and traffic, this course proved to be unworkable and the race was moved to the Oakgrove picnic area. It was here where the Distance Run became two races: 2 1/2-miles and 5 miles. Though the start and finish remained the same, the course was changed a number of times over the years. At times it ran into the Lakeview picnic area and other times a path was mowed in the fields surrounding Oakgrove. One of the big differences between the race at this time and the races during the past dozen years was the large number of high school runners who participated. During the race’s stay in Oakgrove, it was held on a weekday morning.
The race was moved to its present location at Eastwood Beach during the late 1980’s. Bing Eberhadt, then Assistance Superintendent, spent several weeks figuring the routes for the 2 1/2-and 5-mile races. The current 5K course uses all of the old 2 1/2-mile route. The 5-mile route used the first mile of 2 1/2-mile route with the addition of distances around the parking lot of Oakgrove, back to the bike path to Lakeview and through Lakeview to Oakgrove where it met up with the 2 1/2-mile course. It was at this time, too that the race date was standardized to the first Thursday of August in the early evening. The course remained intact until 2005.
The number of people participating varied widely over the years from more than 300 several times to as few as 40 on other occasions. The average was between 100 and 150 people.
A big change occurred in 2005 when the race became a 5K. There had been an even split between those interested in retaining the old, odd distances and those wishing to make it a standard distance. Simple economics was the deciding factor in the change. Falling participation rates, coupled to the cost of providing trophies and medals to two races was no longer visible. A new course was designed using the same start and finish lines and adding the single track portion in Oakgrove to the old 2 1/2-mile course.