By: Dave Graves, President, Prairie Striders
For nearly 50 years, Prairie Striders Running Club has been serving the running community of Brookings.
The club was formed Sept. 12, 1969 in the basement of the barn on South Dakota State University’s campus when the running community wasn’t very big. Most of the runners were younger and hard core. The few that weren’t would run in allies and darkness to avoid drivers angry about having to share the road with these new, odd creatures.
That group of 10 Brookings runners now totals 259 members strong with addresses ranging from Brookings to Beaverton, OR. You can find Striders in 20 states and one Canadian province, but of course, the bulk (180) is right here in South Dakota.
Prairie Striders gets the community involved in racing (its 11 events drew 1,784 participants in 2017) and social runs.
The club’s Frostbite Frolic (Jan. 27) is an untimed run followed by a potluck lunch and year-end awards. In August, watermelon is served after the Predictor Mile, which also includes 400- and 800-meter runs for younger runners; both of those events are free.
This past summer, the club organized Saturday group runs at Hillcrest Park. The club is looking at options to make group runs even more attractive in 2018. Suggestions are welcome and can be submitted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s easy to get involved in Prairie Striders. Dues have been held at $5 for many years and any member is welcome at the club’s monthly meetings.
Prairie Striders has maintained a close relationship with the track and cross country programs at SDSU since Coach Jay Dirksen called that first meeting in 1969. Today, many members volunteer at meets. The club has purchased team equipment and for more than a decade it has funded a scholarship for an SDSU distance runner.
Currently, the club has undertaken a fundraising campaign to endow a second scholarship, the Phil LaVallee Memorial Scholarship.
Participation in Striders’ activities is no guarantee of leading a long, healthy life, but there is some anecdotal evidence toward that.
Its oldest member, Boyd Shank, 103, offers this comment: “If you don’t exercise, you sit and rock all the time; you don’t last long. I think exercise keeps a person alive.”
Then there’s Bob Bartling, 91, one of the club’s charter members. He has run the 15.2-mile Jack 15 a total of 38 times, most recently in 2015. The last two years he has biked the course. Bartling continues to run the Hobo Day 5K, which is formally known as the Bob Bartling Hobo Day 5K.
Today he serves as the club librarian. The Striders’ library collection is held at Briggs Library at SDSU and is available to any member of the public.
Cutline: The Hobo Day 5K is always one of the Prairie Striders most popular events. This shot, showing the leaders of the 381-runner field in 2016, captures the early-morning glow on the South Dakota State University campus.