In late 1979 there were two groups simultaneously, but sepa-rately, trying to form a Lowell based running club. One group, led by John Burke, Dennis Conners, and Dick Stackpole met as a result of working on the Merrimack Regional Theater race. They, along with race workers, realized there was a need for a running club within the community.
At about the same time, Bob Dick, a cross-country coach and teacher at the Greater Lowell Vocational School, placed an ad in the Lowell Sun seeking runners interested in forming a Lowell track club.
A meeting between the groups resulted and John Burke was elected president, Bob Dick vice president, Dennis Conners treasurer, and Dick Stackpole became secretary – and the Greater Lowell Road Runners was born.
In the next five years GLRR created the Hynes/Irish Feet are Runnin’ 5-miler, Berna’s Great Legs for Women (the second oldest women’s only race in the country), and was a founding club in the Mill Cities Relay. The winter Fudgical Series and Tuesday night two-mile summer series were also born. A marathon clinic ran from April to October, in which more experienced runners would lead novices through training for their first marathon. A women’s racing program was established to help women achieve peak performances at five miles. The calendar was also full with social activities for the club – from Christmas parties to white water rafting trips. Lowell had made its way from a running wasteland to a hotbed.
For more than thirty years Greater Lowell has continued to flourish. To date, the club has collected eleven USATF-NE LDR team championships, three USATF XC Masters National titles, nine consecutive Masters titles at the Boston Marathon, and thirty-two individual USATF-NE championships, led by John Barbour and Patty Foltz with four each.
But GLRR has always been about more than just championships and trophies. The focus, then as it is today, is on being a social outlet for runners with a competitive edge. The Greater Lowell Road Runners, aka “the Angry Chickens,” is the 2013 USATF-NE Club of the Year and has surged past 500 members of all ages and abilities. We have weekly group runs on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Tuesday nights in the spring and summer you’ll find us running the Good Times 5K Series. In the fall and winter the Tuesday night runs continue with an informal “Not Good Times” run. Thursday nights are for track at Chelmsford High School (outdoor) in the spring and fall and at Lexington High School (indoor) in the winter. We have monthly meetings with drinks and snacks, club news, raffles and periodic guest speakers. GLRR celebrates their accomplishments and history with an annual Hall Of Fame dinner which is held each year the Saturday night before the Boston Marathon (so we can welcome home remote members running Boston). The Fudgical Race Series runs on Saturday mornings every January and February. We continue the training heritage of the club with Boston training runs on the Boston course each Saturday in March. Club members running Boston take advantage of our Boston bus, which gets them to the start in style and provides plenty of pampering before and after the race. We are active participants in the USATF-NE Road Grand Prix series—in case you haven’t noticed the sea of green in recent years.
Our premier race (and major fund raiser) for the last 25 years has been the Baystate Marathon. Year after year it is a race of choice for runners looking to qualify for Boston. Twenty-five percent of the runners in 2014 did just that. Hundreds of volunteers from the club, local high schools, and other local agencies are mobilized and co-ordinated to make this race happen.
GLRR stays true to its charter of promoting running by running youth programs to get middle school youngsters involved in running and healthy lifestyles. We hold running day camps in August and have an active youth team that competes in spring track and fall cross-country. Our USATF certified coach, Joe Ferris, has led our kids to the Cross-Country National Championships the last four consecutive years. That said, the club supports and encourages kids of all ability levels.
Greater Lowell has enjoyed a nice revitalization in recent years, led by the energetic leadership of Glenn Stewart and backed by a strong board of directors and a growing group of passionate runners. GLRR is dedicated to supporting runners of “all ages and all abilities” – we like to have FUN and we like to compete.
Visit us online at www.glrr.net. Or show up for a group run. You’ll be glad you did.
This article originally appeared in the Mar/Apr 2014 issue of Level Renner. Get your free subscription today (box in upper right portion of screen).