A 28-year partnership helps keep Tyler (trail) running

As a small nonprofit, Tyler Arboretum has always relied on the support of our community. For over 25 years, one of our most reliable community partners has been the Delaware County Road Runners Club. Since 1994, the Delco RRC has organized the annual Tyler Arboretum 10K Trail Run, attracting competitive and recreational runners from throughout the region and beyond to test their mettle on the Arboretum’s hiking trails.

2010 trail run

2010 Trail Run

Normally held in early April, the race will take place this year on Saturday, October 30th – the 28th edition of a local classic. I sat down recently with two of the club’s leaders, John Greenstine and Terry Adamson, to learn more about the history of the Road Runners and what makes the Tyler race so special.

Delco RRC originated in the early 1970s with a local teacher, Byron Mundy, who encouraged people to meet up weekly at the Springfield Library to run a 2.4-mile route together. The running craze was in full swing, and, according to Greenstine, “within a year or two, he had hundreds of people showing up” to run. In 1972, the club was formed with a mission “to promote running as a life-long activity that will enhance the physical, mental and emotional well-being of people of all ages.” The weekly “fun runs” expanded to Collingdale in 1973 and other Delco communities in the 1980s and ‘90s.

Nearly 50 years later, Delco RRC is going strong with roughly 250 active members. The all-volunteer organization is a fixture in the regional running scene, at least partly, says Greenstine, because “we hardly ever say ‘no’” – running in all weathers and always willing to lend a hand. Club members organize an annual county-wide high school cross country championship, a junior developmental track meet, and a dawn-to-dusk-to-dawn distance run. The Delco Road Runners’ water station on Kelly Drive is a highlight of the Philadelphia Marathon, powered by over 100 volunteers. But the heart and soul of the club is in those community fun runs – 10 weekly meetups in 6 different locations around the county, open to all and always free of charge.

girl on a race

So what about the Tyler trail run? By the early 1990s, trail running had gained popularity. According to the current Race Director John Greenstine, Delco RRC’s Tom Hirsch and Tyler’s Executive Director Rick Colbert hatched a plan for a 10-kilometer race through the arboretum. The first Tyler Arboretum 10K Trail Run was held in 1994. Participation was limited to fewer than 200 runners, and the guiding principle was “leave no trace”.

In the decades since, the race has grown to a maximum of 400 runners, becoming an important fundraiser for both Delco RRC and the Arboretum. Adamson and Greenstine tweak the route each year to adapt to trail conditions and highlight Tyler’s varied landscapes and terrain. Loyal sponsors from the local business community help keep the cost of the race affordable. Inclusion in the USATF Mid-Atlantic off-road Grand Prix series ensures that the trail run attracts a number of elite athletes, in addition to local heroes, recreational runners, and novices trying out trail running for the first time.

Indeed, the Tyler 10K enjoys a kind of cult status in the regional running community. Runners describe it as “awesome”, “difficult and grueling, yet exhilarating”, and “one of the best (if not the best) running events in the area”.

Veteran competitor Jeff Painter calls the run “an authentic and demanding test for runners in a beautiful setting. It is an extremely well-organized trail race that features four stream crossings on a challenging (and undulating) course.”

racers crossing streams

Another frequent participant, Andy Hooper, says, “Tyler is always one of the most fun and spirited races around and I look forward to it every year. You don’t get too many chances to race on trails, and the route they’ve put together is one of the best–beautiful landscape, good people, and just the right challenge. Highly recommend!!”

Hooper’s rival Jon Feinberg says, “I’ve run the Tyler 10K in bright sunshine and in snow and sleet, and, no matter what, the trails never disappoint. The course is a unique blend of challenging climbs and gorgeous scenery. After missing the race in 2020, I can’t wait to get back out there in October.”

Sound intriguing? On October 30th, I’ll be lacing up my running shoes to participate in the Tyler trail run for the fifth time. Register here to join me! To learn more about Delco RRC and its activities, check out the club’s website.