USC cross country team members Bob Day, Gary Hill and Halston Taylor didnt think much of their accomplishment on Oct. 6, 1973, when they were the first to cross the finish line at the inaugural Governors Cup Road Race in Columbia.
It was just a training run for us, said Hill, a pharmacist who lives in West Columbia. We always ran together on training runs. So we werent really racing.
It just didnt feel like a big deal. Running was a niche sport, and competitive distance races were rare in 1973.
As the Governors Cup nears its 40th edition on Nov. 3, more than 28 million Americans run or jog at least 50 times in a year. Theres some kind of running event nearly every weekend in the Midlands, and the top competitors run to win prize money in many events.
It was a simpler world back in 1973, when the gee-whiz headline in The State noted 302 Jog Across Cup Finish Line. That first race grew out of the Governors Council on Physical Fitness trying to put together a relay race around the State House to commemorate National Jogging Day. Members of the Columbia Running and Jogging Club took that idea and, well, ran with it in an event that featured races of 15, 5 and 2 miles.
But nobody at the time knew the Governors Cup would become a major event. It was just another excuse to run.
Wow, I could have done without you telling me it will be the 40th anniversary of the race, wrote Halston Taylor in an email from Boston, where he is the longtime cross country coach at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
I remember that race pretty well. That was my freshman year. Even though we did not plan it ahead of time, Bob Day mentioned that we should try to run together. Both I and Gary Hill agreed to do so.
I know that each of us had periods where we felt pretty strong and wanted to pull away, but had to rein it in and stick to our deal. I do not remember the time, but I do not think it was particularly fast.
They ran the 15 miles in 1 hour, 22 minutes, 40 seconds about a 5:30 per mile pace.
Day, now a freelance web, print and software designer living in Newburyport, Mass., couldnt recall details of that first race. Cant say I remember much other than I must have been a freshman and it was probably hot, Day wrote via email.
Taylor, a former Spring Valley High School track star, had an injury-plagued college career and didnt run in the next few Governors Cup races. He recalls finishing second in the 5-mile race several years later.
My knees went when I was still in college, Taylor said. I competed until age 26, but then could hardly run at all. I just elliptical and swim now living vicariously through my athletes.
Day still runs three or four times per week but nothing competitive.
Hill said he finished third in the 15-miler during the third year of the Governors Cup. The only one of the original winners still in the area, Hill hasnt run in the event in awhile.
I still run, but I run really slow, Hill said. Its amazing what age does to a body.