OUR HISTORY - African American runners began running and participating in local road races around 1978. In 1984 Six of these runners began running together regularly on weekends to stay fit. At some point it was suggested they form a running club. An exploratory meeting was held at the Cincinnati Bible College on Reading Road in Avondale. In February of 1984, the first recorded meeting, the group decided to call themselves the Avondale Running Club (ARC). Officers were appointed, bylaws written, and a Mission Statement crafted. The members continued to meet and run through out Avondale and other areas of Cincinnati. ARC members participated in area foot races and met other runners who were encouraged to join and share the weekly fun, and sometimes the pain, of running.
The ARC began growing almost immediately. At first they were all runners but during the late 80’s several walkers joined the thriving group and its current character began to emerge. It became a club of Runners and Walkers. Today the club is organized to promote health and fitness through programs of brisk walking, road racing, bike riding, cross country runs, and other field events in a spirit of fun and competition. And while the club encourages members to adhere to a consistent program of physical fitness, those members who enter competitive activities enthusiastically supported and encouraged.
FOCUS ON CHARITY: The meeting location was eventually moved to the Melrose Branch YMCA in Walnut Hills. The number of Black runners and walkers continued to increase, and the club became involved with YMCA programs. ARC coined the phrase “Feet in the Street” to name the 5K foot race ARC organized and directed to support raising funds for youth programming at the Melrose Y. The club has also organized and directed races and fun walks for the Marva Collins College Prep (come Cleaster Mims and now closed) charter school, the Sickle Cell Anemia support group, the Avondale Community Council, YMCA Summerfest, Moms on the Move and the Center for Closing the Health Gap.
The Club awarded its first $1,000 scholarship to the YMCA youth Black Achievers program in 2007. The scholarship was awarded to college bound high school students. In 2007 the Avondale Running Club dedicated itself to making a difference in the Avondale Community Council's effort to promote good health in the community. The club organized and led a 5K fitness walk to launch the annual community Festival and Health Fair. The club also sponsored Miles for Moms, a 1-mile walk for moms and their little ones. In 2008 the Center for Closing the Health Gap contracted with ARC to develop a model walking program for the Walnut Hills and Norwood Neighborhoods.
We have made charitable donations to the Masonic Learning Center benefiting children with Dyslexia, and Re/Max Miracle Miles, benefiting the children’s Miracle Network, an alliance of premier hospitals for children. The Hirsch Recreation Center, Girls CAN, Girls on the run, the Red Cross and Katrina Hurricane relief and the Avondale Youth Council have all been recipients of ARC financial support. ARC is also an annual sponsor of the Avondale Indians knothole baseball teams, providing awards and trophies to all participants. The Cincinnati Diamonds, girls fast pitch softball also enjoys ARC financial support.
INCREASED VISIBILITY: The club participated in the 1998 inaugural Flying Pig Marathon by staffing a fluid station to provide fluids for runners at about the five-mile location on the 26.2-mile course. This event proved to be a big turning point for the ARC. The Pig fluid station created the opportunity for visibility and a consistent means of raising funds to support the clubs charitable activities. More than 60 club members and friends participated in staffing that first fluid station. In 2006 marathon participants voted the ARC fluid station the most enthusiastic. ARC placed second in 2007 voting and again claimed first place in 2008 voting. In 2007 the Flying Pig Marathon staff asked ARC to staff two fluid stations in recognition of the efficient and enthusiastic way we organize and run a fluid station. ARC is the only organization to staff two stations in one event. ARC has also been enlisted to assist other organizations new to the event to organize their fluid station.
In 2005 ARC established a presence on the World Wide Web and began to receive attention and inquiries from the local and regional racing and walking community. ARC is located on the web at www.avondalerunningclub.com. ARC became affiliated with the National Black Marathoner's Association, NBMA, in 2005 and has a seat on NBMA's board of a directors. ARC is one of the largest affiliated clubs to participate in the annual NBMA targeted marathon events around the country. We had a significant presence at the inaugural event in St. Louis in 2005 and at each annual event since.
In 2008 ARC members accompanied State Senator Kearney during the first five miles of his walk from downtown Cincinnati to the State House in Columbus. The senator walked to raise awareness in infant mortality. Club members also drove to State House in Columbus and walked out to meet Senator Kearney and accompany him on the last five miles of his 105 mile the journey to his office in the State House.
INDIVIDUAL MEMBER ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Avondale Running Club members enjoy walking, running, cycling and swimming. Over the past 30+ years they have left their marks around the city, the region, the country and the globe. Judith Harmony, Elizabeth Brown and Najiyyah Duncan have been rated in their age groups as runners and walker respectively. Gillis Bowden has run in every marathon in Ohio and completed a marathon in each state in the union getting number 50 in April 2014. Elizabeth Brown has completed the prestigious Boston Marathon four times, 1993, 1994, 2005 and 2006. She has completed marathons in Paris and Pauillac, France; Amsterdam, Holland; Lisbon, Portugal; Quebec City, Calgary, and Montreal in Canada; Lausanne, Switzerland, Belo Horizonte, Brazil and Vienna Austria. Natalie Graves has Lisbon, Portugal; Quebec City, Calgary, and Montreal Canada; Lausanne, Switzerland and Belo Horizonte, Brazil in her international race calendar of events. Frances Gilbert has participated in each of the NBMA target annual events. Frances Gilbert, Elizabeth Brown, Kim Zellars and Najiyyah Duncan have all scored awards at the women’s only Fleet Feet Lady Distance Classic. Frances Gilbert was inducted in the inaugural class of the NBMA Hall of Fame at the Richmond, Virginia event on November 16, 2014. At the December 2015, Dallas Texas, Elizabeth Brown was inducted into the NBMA Hall of Fame as a distance runner while the Avondale Running Club was inducted into the NBMA Hall of Fame as the oldest organized African American running club in the nation. Over the years the club has accumulated finishers medals and awards too numerous to count.
NEW YEAR’S DAY TRADITION: Annually the Avondale Running/walking Club members begin New Year’s Day with a Run Brunch. Typically, the day starts at 9: 00 am when members, family and friends gather for the annual 1 to 5-mile fun run or brisk walk, depending what suits you and your cohort group. Immediately afterward, a catered brunch is served. In the early years the club provided the meat dish, usually chicken, turkey and B-B Que and member brought a prepared side dishes and desserts to share. It’s a great tradition and wonderful way to get the New Year off to fun, fitness, and good health. For more than 30 years the event has taken place, no matter the weather!
MONTHLY MEETINGS: The first Saturday of each month, except for May, July and August, the club holds it business meeting. Initially meetings were held at the Melrose Branch YMCA, then in members’ homes. In 2005 meetings were held at “One Mo Cup”, a quaint coffee shop in North Side. Beginning in 2006 meetings were held at the old Avondale Community Pride Center, 3520 Forest Ave., Cincinnati, Ohio. Since the new Avondale Business Center at 3635 Reading Road opened its doors it has been home for Running Club Monthly meetings and the launch point for community walks.
WEEKLY RUN/WALK: The Club publishes an on-line events calendar. Scheduled runs, walks, races and fund-raising activities for members, neighbors and friends are posted there.
Walkers, in cohort groups take to the Streets of Avondale each Saturday morning, usually around 9:30 AM.
Runners have a regular Sunday RUN SCHEDULE that begins at 8:00 AM and rotates among Sharon Woods, Winton Woods, Glenwood Gardens, Lunken Airport, Eden Park Overlook and Mt. Airy Forest.
At the 2020 New Year’s run brunch senior’s cohort group, So Act (Serving Older Adults Through Changing Times), joined the Avondale Running Club.
The club is open to all who wish to join us in staying physically fit and spreading wellness and good health to others. Whether you run, power walk, just walk for fun and exercise or you are training for competition you will find willing ARC club members ready to participate and provide support.