If you’re a runner, you may have heard of training meccas in throughout the West: Eugene, Oregon; Mammoth Lakes, California; or Flagstaff, Arizona. But what about training programs in the Bay Area?
While the San Francisco area has always been home to dozens of Olympians, Olympic hopefuls, and just incredibly fast runners, it has lacked a hub where these elite athletes could come together... until now.
In 2009, Magdalena Lewy-Boulet, a 2008 Olympic marathoner, David Torres, an American 1000 meters indoor record holder, and Shannon Rowbury, a two-time Olympian in the 1500 meters, were among the core runners who founded the Bay Area Track Club . There were about 12 elite athletes and additional coaches at the time, with the minimum qualification for the runners being that you had to be a USA national qualifier. The hope was to create an elite training hub, foster a group that supports each other, and start the groundwork for potential collective bargaining and negotiations.
“The goals were pretty lofty,” says Tom Kloos, a former professional runner who is now an elite-level coach for the BATC and St. Mary’s College.
But, those goals didn’t quite work out right away. All the different athletes had different coaches and schedules. They’d irregularly meet sometimes for workouts and put on youth programs, said Kloos, but it was never fully cohesive.
After the 2012 London Olympics, though, there was a bit of turnover and both Lewy-Boulet and Kloos moved into coaching positions for the club. A new system took shape: BATC is now a core group of elite runners all coached by either Lewy-Boulet or Kloos, sometimes in conjunction with other remote coaches, with an additional group of high-level recreational runners also coached by the duo. All of them meet several times each week for workouts, often on the track at Cal.
“It makes a big difference in motivation and accountability just to have other people there with you,” says Kloos. “The only problem is that there are even more recreational runners who would love to work out on the same track as Shannon Rowbury and are big fans of the runners in the group, but they’re a little intimidated even though everyone does their own workouts. Don’t be scared!”
The group also participates in the Running of the Bulls 5K in Palo Alto, where you get a head start before being chased down by the elite runners dressed as bulls and matadors. They also put on kids races and try to get involved in the community. One of the main missions is to be a little bit more than just a training mecca where nothing else is happening.
“The appeal of San Francisco for so many athletes,” says Kloos, “is that you can develop in other aspects of your life besides running. There’s so much going on, and the people in the Bay Area Track Club may be very fast runners, but they’re also bioengineers and marketing vice presidents and artists. ... We want to be a group where it’s real people.”