In Kelowna back in the late 60s/early 70s, running for the sake of it was considered somewhat eccentric. Local rugby and soccer enthusiast Mike Whitaker (that's him in red, still going strong, spotted during the Commando Bay run in 2018) was nevertheless sneaking in some runs, in places where he felt he’d be least likely to be seen, to augment his fitness. On one occasion, while busy with some such sneaking around on Knox Mountain, he spotted and after a chase met a fellow “eccentric”, one Jack Farrell, whose father had been a Scottish national runner.
Recognising that they were fellow deviants but knowing that there is strength in numbers, Mike and Jack agreed to run once a week, on Wednesdays at lunch time. They were joined on occasion by others and this became a regular noontime group activity. Included amongst the others by 1974 was Al Barry. Al was the new Physical Education Coordinator for the local school district.
As word spread, the Wednesday noon group grew in size and, finding it very convivial they decided to also meet for a run on Saturday mornings.
In 1974 coincidentally, no doubt a spin-off of the running revolution beginning to sweep North America, a run/”walkathon” half marathon was organised in Kelowna, probably the first organised road race held in the city, which attracted about 600 entrants.
Two years later, in 1976, the school district committee, including Al Barry, Mike Whitaker and new teacher called Wendy Robertson, organised a race around town - again a half marathon. The whole idea was to get people out being physically active. This time over 1000 people took part.
Jack Farrell was now coordinator for the Wednesday runs, from his place, running on the trails over Dilworth (there were not yet any houses there). For after-action-satisfaction, no matter if it was blazing hot or freezing cold, Jack provided hot tomato soup!
At the same time Mike Whitaker was coordinator for the Saturday runs. During one of these in April 1976, running on the power lines just below the Crawford Trails/Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park area, a group of five got a little ahead. That group consisted of Jack Farrell, Al Barry, Mike Whitaker and two new Zealanders, Max and Jan Grace. Max and Jan Grace were top level athletes, Max having been to the Olympics twice.
As happens on long runs, the conversation covered many things, one of which was a pivotal agreement - to form a running club for Kelowna – Kelowna Running Club (KRC). At around the same time it was New Zealander Jan Grace who also said “you folk are always horny, you run up hills...you should be ‘nicknamed’ - the GOATS”...and so the iconic weekend run group name was born: the Kelowna Running Club Saturday Goats, with Mike Whitaker as the original goatherd.
These Saturday runs were initially enjoyed by about a dozen runners. By 1977 the club had grown to 30 or so and Al Barry became the first of the group to run a marathon, that year. The bug had bitten though and in 1978 KRC was represented by over 20 members at the Vancouver Marathon.
Over time Monday and Thursday evening runs also started. The core group at this point had become competitive runners, training and racing hard. Some runners were being put off by this, wanting to be less competitive and more recreational, so they formed another club - the Kelowna Sun Runners (KSR), led by Rosemary and Gary Weighill.
This rather took the original KRC group by surprise. During ensuing discussions between the groups, it was generally agreed that running as a sport would be best served, by coordinating the various efforts, through one club. As a result, over a period of years there were quite a few informal meetings, with contribution by many varied participants, from both KRC and KSR.
By 1981 Jim and Karen Bates came into town to set up the Fresh Air Experience store and Jim kindly offered the store as venue to facilitate final amalgamation of the two groups.
Including the original cast of characters, these more formal meetings also included Ken French, one of the valley’s standout elite performers, and Bill Stephens.
Bill, although newish to the conversation, had been running for a few years at that point and channelled his boundless energy to become the major player in reintegration, of the KSR into the KRC, and organisation as the formally organised Kelowna Running Club.
This is the KRC we know today – many years, miles and runners later – your club!
The club nowadays relies heavily on technology and social media to stay in touch with it's members, but this was not always the case. From the club's inception, through to the early 2000s, the club produced a monthly newsletter that was sent to members by mail.
In the interest of keeping our history alive, the KRC has recently digitized all these old newsletters. We have created an online archive in which to store these files and they are accessible to anyone that is interested to read them!
Follow the link below to reach the archive:
You'll be welcome and all runs and races will become wonderful experiences.Join Us!