In 1992 Joan Osborne moved from a very active running community in the Chicago area to the suburbs of Pennsylvania. She recounts our history even before the start of the club. “The week before the move, as I was finishing my board duties at CARA (Chicago Area Running Association), a call came into the office from Ann Diaz. Ann was calling from Philadelphia and wanted to know how Chicago attracted woman runners to events and to running in general. Ann was involved with USA Track and Field and they were looking to increase female participation in their events. Amazingly I took the call and told Ann I was taking up residency about 3 miles from her and world love to discuss the issue in person!”
During the next couple months Ann and Joan ran together and talked about forming a women’s running club. They ran in Valley Forge Park looking for a good meeting place and strategizing about how to motivate women runners or walkers to join Them. “We made flyers and put them in grocery stores, libraries, in mail box areas and any other public place we could think of. I went to PTO meetings, Mom’s groups, church gatherings and anywhere I could find women gathering to invite them to come out to run or walk,” Joan recalls.
In the beginning, on any given Saturday, two or three women might show up. Joan and Ann brought bagels and coffee and encouraged the participants to stay so we could get to know each other better. Each person who came received a phone call (this was before email) thanking them for their attendance and inviting them to return with a friend or two.
It was slow going until one morning Joan read an article in the Wayne Suburban news about how runners were a hazard to drivers on the curvy roads in Wayne. The article suggested that runners did not belong on area streets. “Without thinking I called the author of the article and told her she should do a story about the new women’s running group in VF National Park. Women could run together, feel safe and be away from traffic.” The newspaper ran a terrific story (with pictures!) about our little running group and gave us a much-needed publicity boost.
A few months after the newspaper article about fifteen women met and decided to formally establish the group as a club. They wrote organizational rules and voted in officers. The Rules grew as they did. In the beginning Fast Tracks was “women only” which allowed women the opportunity for leadership roles in an area where men were typically domineering. “It was important to us to be low key so new folks would not feel intimidated.” As more and more men came to run with the woman, the club became established as a very welcoming organization, and men became equal members. To this day, Fast Tracks prides itself in being open and welcoming to all levels of walkers and runners.
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