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Issue 1188 March 13, 2011
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Marlene Sundberg Looks Back At St. Pat's Race History

Special to MyBayCity: by Marlene Christoff Sundberg

March 13, 2011       1 Comments
By: O. J. Cunningham

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Al Kayner -- 1980 -- The Man In Charge
BARC Co-Founder, Larry Sundberg
The Good Old Days of St. Pat's

(Editors Note: Marlene Sundberg is one of the original founding members of the Bay Area Runner's Club (BARC) -- This is Part One of a two-part look back in time by Marlene at the early days of the St. Pat's Race as well as the early development of BARC. Part Two will be published in the March 20 issue of

A couple of months ago while discussing the early years of BARC and the St Pat's race, Linda asked if I could put together a document that would outline how we got from there to here. WHAT A TASK!!!!

With sticky notes and legal pad in hand, I went on a mission and what a mission it has been!!.AND what memories!


As I reviewed running logs, newspaper articles, newsletters, etc., I didn't realize the emotions that would surface.

I pieced together the best I could with what I was able to salvage from a house fire some years ago where much was lost!

Marlene Sundberg
BARC Historian
During the first couple of years I was not involved in BARC nor had I started running. So, some of the information present here is from conversations with earlier members, VERY sketchy notes found in an old folder and, YIKES, my memory!

However, I do know that Al Kayner, Track and Cross Coach and Larry Sundberg, both teachers at Bay City Central at the time, established the Bay Area Runner's Club, sometime in 1977. A short time later an article, appeared in the Bay City Times and from that time forward, the Bay Area Runner's Club became known to all as "BARC."

BARC stayed small for a few years, with Al scheduling races on key Holidays including a winter race series. Since this was the "development" stage, we entered on the honor system!! -- show up, drop your money in the container and in the end, you received your time, place and a ribbon as you crossed the finish line.

These events were held all over the City (including the horse track at the fairgrounds), and trust me when I tell you that was NOT a treat). I am here to tell you Al Kayner courses were indeed interesting if not frustrating at times. Many of us accused him of trying to mess with our heads and Al would respond, (humorously) with, "If you can't read the map and figure out the course, you shouldn't be here"! A lot of laughter on that one! And I looked at him and said, "Okey, Dokey, Al" And off we would go!

In the early years, it was brutal by today's standards. NO restrooms, outside registration standing in the elements waiting for the race to start and waiting for times at the finish under the same conditions. But NO ONE complained because we were HAVING FUN. Aaaahhhhhhhhh, maybe!!!! Yes, the competition was there, but the camaraderie was far more important. (Who remembers Al giving you a number written on a piece of cardboard and a paper clip telling you to put it on the neckline of your shirt!) Sorry, no prize if you send me the answer at AND you absolutely had to give him back the number back BECAUSE HE USED IT AGAIN AT ANOTHER RACE!

Over time, those conditions changed. Races were held at schools, community centers, etc., where "facilities" were available. More "sophisticated", so to speak. It was like if you didn't know what it was like NOT to have the amenities, you just didn't know differently.

Imagine being a woman in the early years and not being able to "you know what" before a race! Those were truly OMG moments!!!!!

Al's love of the sport was more about putting on an event so those who tired of running alone had a venue where they could join like minded "souls" and have a good time.

One thing about Al that many people now do not know, is EVERY charity had a place in his heart. And when I say EVERY charity, I mean just that. What a guy to have on your team if you had a fundraiser that needed organized and staffed. He was the one!

Thus, the birth of the BARC St Pat's race in 1974 for Special Olympics. Courses have changed over the years from Vet's Park, Carroll Park to Garber High School with a "point to point" course. In those early years, as with the majority of the races, registration took place at the start line. However, once the event moved to Garber High School, with the help of Bob Skinner, we were able to offer a more comfortable setting.

At that time, we had one distance, the 5-mile, which was eventually changed to an 8K to coincide with the national standard.

With the end of the year in 1979 and the BARC meeting wrap-up, Al gave up his leadership role of the organization and I was elected President with the position to begin January, 1980.

MyBayCity Coverage of the 2011 St. Patrick's Day Race
Sponsored by Catholic Federal Credit Union.

The Sundberg household almost immediately became BARC headquarters! Meetings, race planning, packet packing, race results preparation, newsletter stuffing, housing of equipment, etc. You name it, it happened there.

We established a monthly newsletter with more issues going out during those weeks leading up to St Pat's keeping the membership well-informed and to put out a call for volunteers. The newsletter was the tool which helped increase membership. We went from a 100+ membership to over 1800, leveling off to 1200-1400. I would say perhaps the most amazing thing to me was when people moved, whether it was out of the area, out of the State or out of the Country, they maintained their membership. We took that as one of the greatest testimonials and compliments to BARC as it validated what we were all about.

With the newsletter we created a formal membership form and BARC Race Schedule which eventually added races sponsored by Auburn Cornfest, St Stan's Polish Fest, Corporate Challenge, Triathlon, a summer track series (where stories abound), and many more. What should be mentioned here is we held the track series at area high schools and we had those meets directed by the school's track and cross country coaches. For $2, you could run as many events as you wanted and the money went right to that school's track and cross country program! Although some events have gone by the wayside, most of the beginning events remain today. And, as with any race related club, new events are continually being added.

To Be Concluded in the March 20 Issue of

Catholic Federal Credit Union is proud to be the 2011 Sponsor
Of the Annual St. Patrick's Day Race in Bay City, Michigan

Special to MyBayCity: by Marlene Christoff Sundberg

(If you didn't read (Part #1) last week's article Click Here for the entire article . . .)
(Including Part #1)

Marlene Sundberg shows great form in this 1980s finish-line montage. Marlene had a great running career but would only say, "I did OK," (smiling broadly) when asked about her personal accomplishments.
(MyBayCity Photo)
(Editors Note: Marlene Sundberg is one of the original founding members of the Bay Area Runner's Club (BARC) -- This is Part two of a two-part look back in time by Marlene at the early days of the St. Pat's Race as well as the early development of BARC. Part One was published in the March 13 issue of

As BARC changed so did St Pat's. The race went from one distance to several. With the race starting at noon and being point to point we already had the course secured so it made sense to see what other distances we could add to accommodate those who did not want to participate in the 8K.

Throughout the years St Pat's included an 8K run, 8K walk, 5k run, 5K walk, and 2-mile open with a ½-mile and ¼-mile Leprechaun run being the last event allowing parents to run with their children. ALL of the little Leprechauns wore #1 on their shirts, an idea taken from the Crim Teddy Bear Trot and created by my dear friend Lois Craig. It was absolutely awesome watching those little kids run down Center Avenue to the finish with the biggest smiles on their faces!

Marlene Sundberg
BARC Historian
What needs to be noted here, is the absolute success of the Bay Area Runner's Club AND its events, especially St. Pat's, would NOT have happened without the help of volunteers. For St Pat's we had 300 volunteers, with the majority being BARC members! From beginning to end! From flyer layout, shirt design, awards selections, hauling equipment, etc. This event is not a one person show! It has to be a total team effort! I must tell you, and this comes from deep in my heart and soul, during my 10-years as President, not one time did I have to worry about NOT having volunteers. I had the BEST officers anyone could ask for! Did we have our moments?You betcha! BUT!!! We got past those moments and more often than not, had a good laugh afterwards. We discussed ideas, concerns, and yes, hurt feelings.

OPEN dialog was a requirement with no BS allowed!

The only real "rule", (and those of you who know me also know that I do no like rules), I had in place was that the BARC officers could not run St Pat's. I felt, even though we had the courses more than covered with volunteers, WE had to be available to REACT, the Bay City and Essexville Police, in the event of a tragedy. The officers fully understood and accepted this.

MyBayCity Coverage of the 2011 St. Patrick's Day Race
Sponsored by Catholic Federal Credit Union.

With the growth also came a change in scoring methods. Gone were the stop watches, tic sheets, Popsicle sticks, and index cards. Computer scoring and overhead clocks emerged in the early 80s and sophisticated scoring and tabulations of results have become the norm. And through all of this the people who remained most constant were Peg and Elliott Deyo. For years, they were at registrations, finish lines (in EVERY weather condition imaginable), working faithfully and diligently all the while giving words of encouragement to finishers at BARC and other events all over Michigan. They became like family to many and remain my closest friends to this day and I still believe Peggy can think faster, foresee and solve any problem quicker than any computer. And, yes, Elliott just shakes his head!

Again, as the race grew, changes didn't occur just in the offering of distances or scoring.

We changed the entire dynamics of the finish line! What a sight it was to stand on the corner of Center Avenue and as far away as Trumbull and look at the scaffolding and banners! Volunteers constructed the scaffolding in the early morning hours,(sometimes in less than ideal conditions) and placed the finish line/distance, and sponsor banners for all to see. ABSOLUTELY BREATHTAKING! Adding to that, we hired Scott Hubbard, another very good friend of mine, the Michigan running trivia guru to announce at the finish. We set him up with a computer and a microphone and he presented color commentary for all to hear!

Although BARC sponsored this race, what needs to be told here is we had so much help from the Saginaw Track Club, Riverbend Striders in Flint and Detroit Motor City Striders! We worked together as growing clubs to offer the best we could to those who participated!

Eventually, we established what became known as the "Elite Runner's List" -- These were top male and female runners throughout Michigan whose talents, as a whole, amazed many. We invited them to participate and provided them with comp entries and special shirts. They responded in full! There wasn't a race anywhere in the State on that weekend and perhaps any weekend, that garnered so much talent in one spot!

In its infancy, no one imagined what would happen over time. So many changes and soooooooooooooooooo many wonderful and heartwarming memories. And along with that came many close and long lasting friendships!

Perhaps one of my most memorable moments was the year we started the women separately from the men. The race started on Borton in Essexville and because of the number of participants and the narrow road, the women definitely didn't get a good position. To the BEST of my recollection, we took the differences between the finish times of the first male and female finisher from the previous year, which was 4-minutes, and established the early start time for the women. Their start line was on St Mary's Court and the men's remained on Borton.

As I stood at the finish line, I could not believe what I was witnessing! Melanie Weaver was in the lead and Jeff Drenth was closing in! I could hardly breathe and people on the sidelines were screaming! Jeff passed Melanie just moments before she crossed the finish line and all I remember her saying, was "I never even heard him breathing". To my knowledge, nothing has usurped that moment! That, my friends, was truly an OMG finish!

Not long after the race, Runner's World Magazine called requesting I write an article detailing the reason for the women starting first, the outcome and how it was received. They published what I had written, but along last, the copies I held near and dear went up in flames. But to me that doesn't matter. The memories are there, never to be forgotten and thinking about it still gives me the same rush and sense of pride!

But remember, these accomplishments could not have been possible without the support of MANY, MANY people! Now, it's time to get back to Al Kayner for whom this race is named and rightfully so! Trust me when I tell you, that if Al was alive today, he would not want his name on the race. That's just the kind of guy he was.

Through the years as President, I saw Al go through many personal struggles. Struggles no one could help him with. He was a very personal and humble man with no pretense. As time passed during those years of personal turmoil the thing that kept him together was his very strong faith and trust in God. Don't get me wrong, Al Kayner was the original jokester. Although he kept running he didn't participate in events. BUT, he continued coaching track and cross country. After stepping aside at Bay City Central, he had stints at Garber High School, and I believe Bay City Western High School. With him was Kay Chalmers at Garber and Jennifer Meyer at Western. Several years later, he rejoined the coaching staff at Central and asked me to join him. That's where I got to know the Al Kayner I remember today.

First and foremost, Al Kayner was not a fashion icon! He was the original "rag tag" man and when I say "rag tag" I truly mean that. In other words, he was NOT a spender, if you get my drift!

He kept his running gear in his "personal locker room" -- THE TRUNK OF HIS CAR!

One day, I couldn't stand it anymore and I asked him why in the world doesn't he just go out and buy athletic clothes and stop wearing the worn out and smelly ones he kept in his car. He looked me dead square in the face with a very serious look, (I thought he was going to yell at me for being so outspoken), and said, "Because these still fit and they haven't fallen off my body." With that we both burst out laughing!

Add to this, Al was the original pack rat! I kid you not! I believe to this day, he had every BARC newsletter ever written, every race result from not only the races he ran in the early years, BUT every race put on by BARC.

Coaching with Al was an experience in itself and very, very rewarding to me. We shared a lot through those years. Many times going for a run after practice or sharing a beer at the Green Hut. If you needed to talk about something, you could talk to Al. He never judged anyone and kept what you told him to himself. Al was one of the BEST FRIENDS I have ever had.

What I believe Al saw long before many of us was bigger is not always better. As St Pat's grew and events expanded all over the country, you could see the sadness in his eyes. The intimacy of the early years started to disappear never to return!!!..well maybe!

When I stepped down as President, the leadership changed many times. The new people in place came face to face with reality and what was involved in keeping a club and events moving forward in a positive manner.

Eventually, Al got back what he started. He really didn't want to be at the helm again, but his "baby was dying" and he just couldn't let that happen. He did everything to keep it going even if it meant going back to the very beginning. And that's basically where he took it. He scaled back St Pat's, taking it to Hampton Mall, and dropped some events off the schedule. Gone was the runner's expo, the big sponsors and elaborate awards. Overtime, he was able to step aside and a new leadership emerged.

Having said all of this, which took a lot longer to put together than I thought and became somewhat labor intensive, all I ask is that when you step to the start line this St Pat's, please take the spirit of Al Kayner with you as you traverse the course and remember when and by whom this "baby" was born.

In closing, I'll stroll a bit more down memory lane and ask you to test your own memories!

How many of you remember your very first pair of running shoes? I wore the Adidas Lady Dragon! After that, I changed to the Nike Waffle Trainer and then the Saucony Lady Jazz. I have tried others along the way and am now back to Saucony which I have found to be the most durable and long lasting.

In the early years of running attire, there wasn't much available to women. When first introduced, it was more for "style" than comfort. Today, it's overwhelming but the selections are good.

Shoes have changed and over time, shoe companies have become more and more technically competitive with Nike leading the charge. With this technical mumbo jumbo came pricing increases starting mid-range and going to well over the $100 mark.

Finally, when all is said and done, search your soul and be reminded why you started running. Sometimes, going back to the beginning is worth the trip.

In putting all of this together for you I was reminded of many things, but what came to the forefront was that for all the miles, all the friendships, all the hardships, what is most important in life is how you feel about yourself at the end of the day, not at the end of the race. Searching your soul and coming back to the center from time to time sums up how you will move forward in your life. And this, my friends, is also what Al Kayner was about. Not only was he a teacher and a coach, he was a mentor to many. And more importantly, he loved his family and he kept his faith strong. We watched his children grow up and become young adults, marry and have children of their own. His wife Judy, was his rock, who, even through the turmoil in his life, stood by him! I truly miss my friend.


And yes, my friends, those were the days!... Those were TRULY the days!

God Bless, Everyone


P.S. Remember to thank the volunteers at all events, for without them, those same events would not be possible.

Catholic Federal Credit Union is proud to be the 2011 Sponsor
Of the Annual St. Patrick's Day Race in Bay City, Michigan

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O. J. Cunningham

O. J. Cunningham is the Publisher of Cunningham previously published Sports Page & Bay City Enterprise. He is the President/CEO of OJ Advertising, Inc.

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