Bob Kaman remembers 35 years of the Cowtown race

February 21, 2013

This year marks the 35th running of the Cowtown races in Fort Worth, which is an appropriate time to look back on the first Cowtown races and how the state’s premier running event got its start. UNTHSC’s own Robert Kaman, JD, PhD, Associate Dean for Graduate Studies in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences was one of the founders of the Cowtown and explains how the race was born.

Dr. Kaman himself ran in the Cowtown.
His own sense of satisfaction at
completing the marathon in 1981 is
displayed in this photo.

"The first Cowtown was held on the last Saturday of February in 1979. The race was started by the Board of the Institute for Human Fitness, a division of the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine. I served as the director of the Institute, and invited my running buddy Jim Gilliland to become the race director. By the week before the race, more than 1,000 runners had signed up, and packet pickup was held in the Atrium of the newly opened Med Ed I, now the Carl Everett Education and Administration Building on the Health Science Center campus.

"At about 10 p.m. on the Friday before the race, a winter storm called a Blue Norther came through Fort Worth, and the temperature went from a pleasant 70 degrees to the mid-20s by daylight. The course was covered in thick, white ice. Because of the ice, the official in charge of course marking, Paul Isham, former city attorney of Fort Worth, scoured all the 24-hour K-Mart stores, bought up all the cans of spray paint he could find, and had the course remarked. He was able to get to the starting line and run the marathon himself. He ran with Dick Armey, then a professor at UNT, who would later become the House Majority Leader in the US Congress. I’ll never forget the image of the two of them coming across the finish line through the ice and snow.

"That first year, I was the finish line marshal and called out the winners’ names as they crossed the finish line. I think the most rewarding part of the race is that feeling of accomplishment and self-satisfaction that a runner feels when he or she crosses the finish line. It’s something that they hold onto and cherish.

"While the Institute and the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine were the original sponsors, they were joined that first year by the Fort Worth National Bank (now Chase Bank). The bank’s president was Jody Grant, a running buddy of Dr. Joel Alter, Professor of Surgery at TCOM, who invited the bank to join TCOM as a sponsor. The following year, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Miller Brewing Company joined as sponsors, and the race was off and running.

"The Cowtown has gone from a race among a close-knit group of running enthusiasts to Forth Worth’s top running event and the largest multi-race event in Texas."

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