Running Through Life with Friends

By Lynn Borland
Special to the Palisades News

When our Pacific Palisades running group, the Ridge Runners, launched the Will Rogers 10K Run on the Fourth of July, 1978, we weren’t content with just one tough holiday race.

For Thanksgiving that year, we organized an even tougher Turkey Trot. Our self-designed course, then and now, begins at Sunset Boulevard and makes a relentless ascent up Amalfi Drive until the pavement ends, then continues above Camp Josepho and onto the Sullivan Ridge Trail to the Mulholland Fire Road. Hardly your typical jog in the park—the elevation climbs 1,590 feet over the 7.2-mile route. But there’s some consolation in that the return trip is all downhill, assuming that one’s legs aren’t totally trashed by this time.

The Ridge Runners cool down after completing yet one of their many journeys, this one atop Inspiration Point above Will Rogers in the late 1980s. (Front row, left to right): Tim McNamar, Dick Lemen, Cliff Schleuter, Peter James, Bill Klein, Tony Rosenthal, and (back row, left to right) John Montanaro, Kevin Ehrhart, Don McCarthy, Bob Klein, David Hibbert, Kevin Herz, Chris Carlson, Jon Varat and Lynn Borland.

The Ridge Runners cool down after completing yet one of their many journeys, this one atop Inspiration Point above Will Rogers in the late 1980s. (Front row, left to right): Tim McNamar, Dick Lemen, Cliff Schleuter, Peter James, Bill Klein, Tony Rosenthal, and (back row, left to right) John Montanaro, Kevin Ehrhart, Don McCarthy, Bob Klein, David Hibbert, Kevin Herz, Chris Carlson, Jon Varat and Lynn Borland.

Running and camaraderie have held our local band of 20 brothers together since the Ridge Runners began in 1977. Brian Shea, Bill Klein and the late Chris Carlson started running together regularly, and the rest of us rallied around them over the next year. While the number of everyday runners from the original group has dwindled to two, there has been a steady growth of new recruits—now including sisters who love to run. With no clubhouse, no officers, no agenda, no dues and only one rule, it would seem that such a lack of structure would doom the group. Just the opposite proved to be the case.

The one rule? Those who want to join in for a hilly run of six, ten, fifteen or twenty miles must gather for the start at 5:50 a.m.

If you arrive one minute late, you are on your own.

Founding members who are inactive runners today aren’t just resting on their laurels. All have taken up other active sports such as hiking, swimming, skiing, golf, surfing and bicycling. The cyclists have even founded a subsidiary group called the Literary Society. No, they don’t do much reading; the name came about in their earliest days when they met at the Palisades Library at 5 a.m. to begin their morning ride.

For the annual Turkey Trot these days, there are more of us on two wheels than two legs. Founding members Brian Shea, Dick Lemen and Bud Jacobs make a Starbucks stop on their way by car, drive to Mulholland via the freeway, park the car where the pavement ends and hike in to greet the Turkey Trotters with coffee and muffins.

Lasting friendships have been fostered through this demanding regimen. Ridge Runner members have teamed up and competed in more than 500 marathons including Boston, New York, Chicago, London and Paris, and have run in too many 5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons and triathlons to count. The group has been represented at every Los Angeles Marathon and Will Rogers 5K/10K since these events began. Members have climbed Mt. Whitney together, completed the one-day Rim-To-Rim hike across the Grand Canyon and skied together at several Western resorts.

We established a tradition many years ago dictating that for a member’s 50th birthday, the group traveled out of town for a marathon to celebrate the occasion. For Dick Lemen, the 26.2-mile marathon distance didn’t seem quite enough, so we designed our own 50-kilometer course complete with timed finish line, videotaping of the event and a massage therapist for après-race aches and pains. Of course, this also called for a giant finish-line party in honor of the birthday boy.

With the ocean to the west and moun- tains to the north, Pacific Palisades is a runner’s paradise. If our group wants to stick to the flats, we can take a nice cool run along the beach, or we can ramp up our endurance by venturing out along the Backbone Trail that stretches for 69 miles between Will Rogers Park and Pt. Mugu. Over the years the Backbone Trail has become the Ridge Runners’ second home. The trail offers a rare opportunity to retreat to the serenity of the natural world, and yet this special place is right next door.

A handful of the Ridge Runners take in the view atop Mount Whitney in 2004, one of more than a dozen such trips made by members of the group. From left to right: Lynn Borland, Troy Elander, Frank Gibbons, Jon Varat and Ron Graham.

A handful of the Ridge Runners take in the view atop Mount Whitney in 2004, one of more than a dozen such trips made by members of the group. From left to right: Lynn Borland, Troy Elander, Frank Gibbons, Jon Varat and Ron Graham.

From the beginning, there were dozens who joined our group, including Bill Klein, Tony Rosenthal, Brian Shea, Chris Carlson, Ken Anderson, Lynn Borland, Jon Varat, Don McCarthy, Don Burgess, Bob Klein, Peter James, Dick Lemen, Gordy Sausser, Cliff Schleuter, Pauline Stevens, Peggy Enriquez, Bud Jacobs, Bill McMorrow, John Montanaro, Fred Lambert, Tim McNamar, Mike Lerner, Bob Woods and Joel Fox.

Dozens more have joined the running fray since 1980, including Thomas Hathaway, Kevin Ehrhart, David Hibbert, Alice Calamar, Romney Resney, Eleanor Keare, Troy Elander, Ron Graham, Jonathan Weaver, Rob Cashman, Rebecca Martin, Phil Feder, Frank Gibbons, Eric Thorson, Deborah Hafford, Brian Temple, Dan Mellencoff, Susan Spira, Bill Hutcheson, Marc Binenfeld, Jon Kohl, Janna Kohl, Betty Morin, Kelly Shea and Mike Wagner.

(Editor’s note: If you want to run in this year’s Turkey Trot, you don’t have to register nor is there an entry fee. The only requirement is that you need to be in tip-top shape because the course follows a very steep incline. The run starts at 7 a.m. sharp at the intersection of Sunset and Amalfi in the Riviera. Questions? Call (310) 454-8264. There is no website.)

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