RUNNING WITH A PURPOSE
Burlington Runners Club, or BRC as it is more commonly known, was founded in 1973 by a group of local runners who shared an interest in running and saw an opportunity to use the sport to make a difference in the community. From its small grass-roots beginning, the club has grown to over 200 members today who continue to carry on the vision of the club's founders and remain committed to making a difference in the community through running and active living.
In addition to our athletic foundation, BRC is a powerful and highly respected charity in the local community. Through the efforts of our members and the local running community who help us host four marquee running events in the region and engage thousands of participants and spectators, we are able to give back tens of thousands of dollars each year.
We run and race locally but we also travel the world individually or in groups and represent our club at some of the most significant running events on the planet. If there’s a race you’ve dreamed of running, chances are a BRC member has done it or is signed up to do it.
The Burlington Runners Club was founded in 1973 by some local citizens who shared an interest in the sport of running. From this founding "Group of Seven", the club has grown to presently boast more than 200 members.
John Kendall, one of the founders of the Club, is a local doctor who originally got involved with the club when he was working with recovering heart attack patients. He had them on a jogging program to improve their fitness and reduce their risk of further heart troubles. Dr. Kendall said that when he first got involved with the club, he could not have imagined the success it would eventually enjoy today.
The Burlington Runners Club comprises mainly, but not exclusively, residents of Burlington, Ontario, Canada. Roughly two thirds of the Club's members are citizens of Burlington, while the remainder are from surrounding areas including Oakville, Milton and Hamilton. The Club comprises people of all walks of life: doctors, dentists, accountants, teachers, salespeople, painters, carpenters, bankers, real estate agents - even some students and retirees. Members range in age from 20 to 75.
The Club reaches beyond simply participating in the sport of running. It is a social organization, a powerful charity club, a highly competitive running team, a successful corporation - and, in all respects, a vital part of the City of Burlington.
The Early Days
The Burlington Runners Club did not spring into existence as a full-fledged running club all at once. It took time to evolve and become what it is today. The beginning of this evolution can be traced back to 1967 and a group called the Post Cards.
The Post Cards were a group of recovering heart attack patients who were put on running/walking programs by their doctors. Dr. John Kendall was the local doctor who started this group, affiliated with the local YMCA. They used the facilities at the Y and did most of their running indoors onsite. The Y also handled the group's financial and organizational affairs. Though today such a program is commonplace, in 1967 it was revolutionary. This was before the running boom of the seventies, and before the fitness craze of the eighties - the idea of having heart attack victims out running around was thought to be ridiculous. The program was only the third of its kind in Canada. Dr. Kendall emulated the program pioneered by Dr. Ebbe Marquardson in Montreal. Despite the overwhelming success of having heart attack victims increase their cardiovascular fitness through training, this early struggle to win acceptance was a valiant one.
This group continued to operate as an extension of the YMCA and began include some regular runners in addition to the heart attack patients. These new additions were mainly other doctors or friends of Dr. Kendall - generally men in their forties. The "club", if it could be called that at this point, was small and fairly stagnant and remained so until 1973.
In 1973, Ebbe Marquardson, who was now living in the Burlington area, and was part of the "club", suggested that running the Boston Marathon might be a good idea. Dr. Kendall recounts that the suggestion was put forth on a beautiful, sunny day - a day when there was nothing else to do but to go running. Thus, unanimously, they set their goal of conquering the Boston Marathon. Ebbe contacted the local papers, and the identity of the runners planning to run Boston was revealed to the public. As Dr. Kendall said, they were trapped and there was no turning back. This group of aspiring marathoners was dubbed "The Magnificent Seven" after the movie of the same name which had been recently released. Dr. Kendall feels that it was the publicity surrounding this trip to the Boston Marathon in 1973 that helped get the Burlington Runners Club off the ground. Particularly inspiring was the success of George Pattison.
George was one of the Post Cards, a heart attack victim. Before 1973, no one who had previously suffered a heart attack had ever completed a marathon. George's successful completion of Boston in 1973 was a triumph for the revolutionary medical practices that Dr. Kendall and his group had been promoting, as well as an inspiration for many aspiring local runners.
One other major event occurred in 1973 that helped start the transformation of this small group into what the Burlington Runners Club has become today. That event was the inaugural running of the Burlington Road Race in late April of 1973. It was a fifteen mile road race, and to attract the more casual runners, the organizers included a relay division. With four members per team, each person would only have to run three or four miles. The goal of the organizers was to open this race up to more members of the community than a traditional road race - which at this time was still something of an "oddball" sporting event. The local high schools were contacted and encouraged to compete and prizes were offered in younger age divisions. The first Burlington Road Race attracted roughly 150 competitors and generated a great deal of local publicity for the new "club".
Over the next several years the Club's membership grew. The Club continued its affiliation with the YMCA and met there for regular training runs. By 1979, the Club had evolved to become the organization it is today. An executive was elected, a constitution was drafted, and a newsletter began as a bi-monthly publication. At this point, the Club members decided to break from the YMCA and become a completely autonomous group. The Burlington Runners Club had truly been born.
by Mike Bascome
March 28, 1993
with minor editing by Ed Alexander