Established in 1971, the Pamakid Runners Club formed when members of the San Francisco
Dolphin South End Runners (DSE)—the land-loving offshoot of the San Francisco Rowing
Club, Dolphin Club, and South End Rowing Club—wanted to compete as a club at local
races, but AAU (Amateur Athletic Union), kept them from doing so. At the same time,
the Cunneen and Boitano families were having a great time on their Wednesday night
runs around Lake Merced, with men, women, and children all participating. (This is
significant considering the AAU didn’t allow women to participate in races until
1974, and the general public still assumed that women weren’t strong enough to run.)
Some of these young Lake Merced runners were also DSE members and wanted to enter
Bay to Breakers under the DSE name, but again, the AAU would only allow them to run
Armed with a desire to run as part of an official running club, Betty Cunneen called
a meeting to form a new AAU club. They set a date for September 2, 1970 to discuss
club details, including the name. The group tossed out several good ideas, including
gems such as Runaway Pancakes, Lake Merced Striders, and Pacific Pacers. Grant Newland
invented the name Pamakid Runners and a bird called Soonar as the club mascot. The
name, and the mascot, won by a landslide.
With their name intact and Betty Cunneen
on board as the first club president, the Pacific Association of the AAU officially
sanctioned Pamakid Runners Club in January 1971. The Wednesday night runs continued
for more than 15 years, almost always followed with a potluck or dinner at a nearby
pizza parlor. The club’s first organized race was an 8-mile jaunt from Daly City
to Lake Merced. A few years later, they organized a relay race at Lake Merced, which
later evolved into the annual Rites of Spring Run and Dinner.
In 1977, under the guidance
of then-president Jim Scannell, the Pamakids organized the first San Francisco Marathon.
The marathon continued under our direction for five years, until the weight of organizing
such a large event took its toll. No stranger to endurance events, the Pamakids also
participated in a 24-hour relay event put on by Runner’s World. About 100 teams participated
in this ‘round the clock event. Club members enjoyed running (and socializing) so
much, they began organizing weekend trips around races, which ultimately led to annual
camping/running excursions to the Gold Country town of Volcano, Calif., for the 7.7-mile
Jug and Rose race.
After letting go of the marathon, in 1983, the Pamakids put on
the inaugural San Francisco Half Marathon, later sponsored by Home Depot. While the
course has remained virtually unchanged (except for occasional fidgeting with the
last quarter mile), the event has grown steadily in attendance and popularity. With
the support of title sponsor Kaiser Permanente beginning in 2005, the San Francisco
Half Marathon has become one of the city’s largest road races. In 2008, the Pamakid
Runners celebrated the event’s 25th anniversary with nearly 9,000 registered runners—our
largest field to date!
The success of the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon
allows the Pamakids to donate thousands of dollars to such organizations as the Koret
Family House, Northern California Hemophiliac Society, and Support for Families of
Children with Disabilities. The club also donates generously to many other local
Today, Pamakid Runners boasts a diverse membership of “Pas,” “Mas,” “Kids,”and grown-up
kids who actively participate in local running events and club-organized social events,
including our “Rites of Spring” run and dinner, a holiday gala (where club awards
(Excel) are given annually), club picnics, and other festivities. Our racing team
competes in several road and cross-country events each year, from the 5K to the marathon.
So the next time you’re running around Lake Merced, Golden Gate Park, or Kezar Stadium,
watch out: you may find a Pamakid on your tail. We’re friendly creatures…but keep
an eye on their avian friend, Soonar. He just might drop something on you.