San Diego Ultra Running History

Author, Paul Schmidt Co-Author, Larry Goodman and Editor, Scotty Mills

In May 1980, TJ Key and Tom Jackson founded the Flatlanders trail running club. TJ served as the club president and published a club newsletter, the Downstream Digest. To gain membership in the Flatlanders you had to complete running 100 miles in less than 24 hours and be accepted by two-thirds of the forty members. Larry Goodman stated that the very day after he completed a one-hundred-mile race under the 24-hour standard, he received a Flatlanders t-shirt in his mailbox.

In 1978, a one-hundred-mile race was held at SDSU track where Frank Bozanich attempted to break his own world record. Bozanich retired early due to temperatures reaching the 90’s. TJ Key persisted and finished in just over 24 hours. In May 1979, TJ ran the Chula Vista 100 and despite having to walk for two hours, won the race finishing in a time of 16:56:36. In November 1980, TJ Key and Tom Jackson set a world best in a two-man twenty-four-hour relay race in Carlsbad, running slightly less than 194 miles while averaging 7:09 per mile.

During these early years, several races were founded in the greater San Diego area including the Butterfield Stage 100K (T. Jackson, 1979 RD), the Pacific Crest Trail 50 Mile (Jeff Vieira, 1980 RD), the Mt San Juan Trail 50K (Baz Holly, 1979 RD), the Cuyamaca-Laguna 50K (J. Mitchell RD 1989 & 90, Mike Suter 1994-2003), the Lost Boys 50M (Tom Waddell, RD 1991-2000), and several six-day races held at local high schools (Mission Bay HS, Granite HS, etc.).

Other Southern California races included the Spunky Canyon 40M, the Avalon Benefit 50M, and the Shadow of the Giants 50K. Other iconic members of the Flatlanders included: Dale Sutton (Dale’s Soup Kitchen aid station founder), Wes Barrett, Rae Clark, Charlie Savage, Bill Mckean, Mike Wade, Buffalo Bill McDermot, Dennis Burkett, and Jim Pellon. A long standing ultra runner beginning back at the Cuyamaca-Laguna 50 was Anne Langstaff, and Annie is still running ultras at all distances.

In the early 1990’s a small group of local trail runners would regularly meet for training runs. Tom Waddell (Lost Boys 50M founder) and Karen Simmonds settled on calling the group the San Diego Ultra-Running Friends (SURF). Paul Schmidt attempted to organize the group to share information about upcoming training runs, local training courses, and ridesharing to distant races. Paul served as SURF president for several years mostly because no one else was interested in the position. Ken Bonus (SURF Trailfit Leader) did all the legal work to establish SURF as a not-for-profit organization. The PCT 50M became a club sponsored race at which the RD position progressively passed to club members including John Metz, Maureen Moran, and John Martinez.

Some other local races in the 1990’s included the Smugglers 50M (TJ Key, RD), Lost Boys 50M (Tom Waddell), San Diego One-Day (John Metz RD), and the Lake Hodges 50M (Sean McDonald RD).

In 2001, Paul Schmidt organized the San Diego 100M Endurance Run on the behest of his late wife, Kathleen Schmidt (who also created the iconic SD 100 logo). The plan was to stage a run to celebrate Paul’s 50th birthday. The course was to start at Lake Morena Campground, run an out-and-back to the Mexican border, followed by another out and back north to Todd’s Cabin.

The run was scheduled for December 15, the weekend before Paul’s milestone birthday. A permit wasn’t required since there were less than 16 participants using the wilderness preserve area on Hauser Mountain. Several of Paul’s ultra running friends were invited to join the run. These runners included : Jeff Hines, Pam Reed, Hans-Dieter Wieshaar, Monica Scholz, Steve Harris, Akabill Molle, and Paul himself. Unfortunately, the day before the run, over a foot of snow accumulated throughout the Laguna Mountains; however, the run must go on!

The course was therefore revised to include two out-and-back legs to Cibetts Flat from Boulder Oaks. The temperature dipped to a chilling 22 degrees during the night. Hardy SURF club members: Jim and Karen Hamilton, Mary Barry, Willie Clarke, Larry Pustinger, Drew Paley, and friends of the runners worked the aid stations throughout the event. Larry, Willie, and Drew setup a circle of vehicles enclosed with tarps to warm runners and provide them with hot food and drinks during these atypical and challenging conditions. Pam retired, in the lead, after completing the out-and- back to the border due to illness. Jeff and Steve finished together with their pacer, Tommy Nielsen. Todd also finished the run sweeping the course as he progressed down the course.

The run continued the next year with the course now staying entirely on the PCT. The run was sequentially moved to November, October, and finally to the first week in June when Scotty Mills became the RD in 2008. Scotty subsequently handed SD 100 directorship to co-RDs, Angela Shartel and BJ Haeck, in 2018.

Over the years, many of the San Diego based runs have encountered both great successes and challenges with required course changes, race cancellations due to wildfires and COVID, and the evolving sport of endurance racing, but the success of San Diego 100 Endurance Run specifically, remains intact due to the foundational work and dedication of Paul, Kathleen, Scotty, Angela, BJ, and countless other SURF members and volunteers.

Mission Statement:

San Diego Ultra Running Friends supports our diverse running and trail community, providing our members with happy, healthy opportunities to run, race, volunteer, and socialize.  We work to create an inclusive environment to cultivate friendships, provide encouragement, and celebrate every runner.  We also encourage members to maintain local running and hiking trails for public benefit to foster environmental awareness in parks and national forests.

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San Diego Ultra Running Friends is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. 

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