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The South Fulton Running Partners

Date: 
09/21/2010 - 09:40

By IILONGA THANDIWE
So Fulton RP logo.jpg“It seems to me that trying to live without friends is like milking a bear to get cream for your morning coffee. It is a whole lot of trouble, and then not worth much after you get it.” -- Zora Neal Hurston

This sentiment expressed by anthropologist and author Zora Neal Hurston effectively captures the spirit and ethos of the South Fulton Running Partners (SFRP). For more than 30 years the “Partners” have made fun, fitness, fellowship, and friendship core principles. A passion for running and enthusiasm about fitness are key elements of the Partners. However, although running may be the catalyst that brought them together, fellowship is the glue that has kept them together.

As the oldest Black recreational running club in the US, the Partners are a visible and vital part of the Atlanta running community. The club annually participates in several local races including the Striders 5K, the Peachtree Road Race, Ekiden Relay Race, Peachtree City Classic, and more. Additionally, club members travel out of town for races. Over the years, they’ve enjoyed a number of road trips, including destinations in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Bermuda. Enjoying a strong relationship with the National Black Marathoners Association (NBMA), the Partners were pleased to host more than 100 NBMA runners in February 2010 for the ING Marathon in Atlanta. Additionally, SFRP members have joined the NBMA at a number of marathons around the country.

“Service is the rent we pay for living.”
-- Marian Wright Edelman

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From its inception the SFRP membership embraced the paradigm that community service is an obligation and not an option. Within a year of its founding in 1979, the Partners created the Sickle Cell Road Race (SCRR). The SCRR, held on the second Saturday in April, is one of the oldest road races in Atlanta. Proceeds from the SCRR go to benefit the Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia and its summer camp for children with sickle cell anemia. Sickle cell anemia is a debilitating hereditary blood disease that can have devastating effects on its victims and their families. Camp New Hope provides an opportunity for children ages 6-17 to enjoy the thrill and excitement of a typical outdoor residential camp in a safe environment where their illness is neither the focal point nor an obstacle to experiencing the joys of summer camp. In its 30-plus years, the SCRR has grown to become one of the most respected and anticipated road races in the community. With more than a thousand participants in the 7K run and 4K walk, this family friendly event has established itself as an institution in Atlanta. The Sickle Cell 7K race is an RRCA Southern Regional Championship event.

“All beauty is in the creative purpose of our relationships.” -- Ayi Kwei Armah

In crafting a fundamental definition of beauty, the African writer Ayi Kwei Armah, acknowledges that the tapestry of a strong group is woven on the fabric of healthy relationships. Consequently, the Partners have consciously created and engaged in activities that nurture and sustain a strong running club.
The Partners run every Saturday morning, rain or shine. The course and location rotates weekly among the members, making each week’s course and host different. Known for the occasional lavish post-run feast, some members excel at setting a table that welcomes guests and members with a culinary repast designed for refueling from a five to six mile run. But even the more modest post-run refreshments provide the sustenance needed to replenish the body and nourish the soul. Walkers and guests are always welcome at all SFRP runs and the pace varies. SFRP runs include both the leisurely cocktail crowd bringing up the rear to the thoroughbreds sprinting out of the blocks in front.
In addition to the weekly runs the group sustains camaraderie through a variety of other activities.
Over the years, the Partners have engaged in several running competitions among its members, the most popular of which is the Battle of the Sexes, where the men and women compete to see which group can log the most miles over a three-week period. The winning team is treated to dinner by the losing team. Presentations on fitness and health are occasionally presented at runs or business meetings.
The club’s social calendar includes occasional outings to concerts or plays, an annual holiday party, and the anniversary banquet. At the annual anniversary celebration, members are recognized with a variety of awards including most annual mileage, best course, Partner of the Year, most improved runner, etc. The SFRP Soobayah Fitness Series recognizes the most active runners in the club.
The SFRP maintains a website (sfrpatlanta.org), a Facebook page, and a Twitter page. The Partners also provides race management services to local community groups and have assisted dozens of community and non-profit organizations in staging road races over the years.

“The triumph can’t be had without the struggle.” -- Wilma Rudolph

To know your history is to know yourself. The Partners understand and appreciate that they have been able to reach far because they stand on the shoulders of giants, those well known to the world and those who have contributed tirelessly on behalf of the SFRP. They have “a legacy to maintain and an image to uphold.” For example, The Partners proudly embrace the spirit of Ted Corbitt, the first president of the RRCA and co-founder of the New York Road Runners Club. Often designated the “father of long distance running,” Corbitt, the grandson of slaves, excelled at distance running during a time when racism threatened to force him off course and derail his ambitions. His accomplishments challenged popular ideas about the place and potential of Black folks in distance running.
Just as Ted Corbitt’s contribution to running has informed and inspired the Partners, the quality of their social dynamic continues to be essential to their vitality. Jim Lemon, one of the original founding members, put it succinctly when he said, “The longevity of the Partners is due to the fact that we welcome all folks regardless of social, economic or educational background. It is the positive attitudes, nurturing environment, sense of family, and caring for each other that has been the foundation of the Partners’ strength, and the bedrock of our endurance.”

For more information about the South Fulton Running Partners, visit them at www.sfrpatlanta.org, on Facebook at South Fulton Running Partners, or follow them on Twitter at SoFultonRunners
To contact the club, email sfrp@sfrpatlanta.org.

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