The Corpus Christi Roadrunner Club Story
-As told by Clent Mericle
Once upon a time (summer 1974) Clent wanted to start a running club. So his dad (Wade) told him to call the newspaper and place a notice.
About a half dozen other runners showed up at Cole Park on a Sunday evening for a run. The newly formed club was named the Corpus Christi Track Club. Wade Mericle was president. No other offices existed since there was no money or membership dues. The first road race was the La Corrida Del Mar 10k (the run/race by the sea). Sixty-three runners participated in the race with Clent winning by a close margin.
In 1975 Commander John Butterfield came to Corpus Christi from Tehran, Iran where he was a naval attaché. He used the name Roadrunners and the logo from his club in Tehran. It was considered a more descriptive and not so intimidating name. John put on a number of events; but the one that made it big was the Armed Forces Beach to Bay Relay Marathon. The event was first run on May 15, 1976.
John and Clent measured off the course in John's orange Volkswagen Baja Bug, starting at the pavilion near Bob Hall Pier and running around the area with some beach (of course) and proceeding along a route similar to the current course. The only exception was an out and back portion past Cole Park before finishing at the park amphitheater.
The first race was a fiasco up front. There was no set number of team members and you could run more than one leg and be on more than one team. Handoffs were supposed to be about every 2.5 miles. The top Corpus Christi team was leading by more than a mile twenty miles into the run. A San Antonio team decided to run shorter legs, since they had more runners and were together in a van to catch up. So, the Corpus Christi team also shortened their legs. They were still leading at the turnaround; but both teams ran past the finish and ended up near the Harbor Bridge. The San Antonio team passed the Corpus Christi team going the wrong way- while all the other team members were back near Cole Park waiting for them.
The first team to finish at the amphitheater was Beeville. If the first two teams had not run past the turnaround, Corpus Christi would surely have won. However, the San Antonio team was declared the overall winner since they came from the furthest away. Corpus Christi was second and Beeville was third. The purpose of the event was primarily to have fun; and somehow it has always been that way -even when some things were not just right.
This is pretty much how our Corpus Christi Roadrunners Club and the Armed Forces Beach to Bay Relay Marathon got started.