- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 6, 2005

Most runners in the area probably know nothing about Hugh Jascourt except that his name graces an annual 4-mile run held by the DC Road Runners Club.

But Jascourt’s impact on running hereabouts and around the country was much deeper than that. In many ways, he touched all of our lives.

When Jascourt died July27 at the age of 70, we lost a tireless proponent of running. We lost a man who helped found, then shape the DCRRC (then the Road Runners Club of America) — an organization that now has more than 670 clubs and 160,000 members across the nation.

He helped dispel forever the notion that runners were underweight geeks who were doing more harm than good to their bodies by running.

In the ‘50s, Jascourt moved to fill the void of the Amateur Athletic Union — now USA Track & Field — as interest was rising in road racing and grass-roots running.

He helped start the first Road Runners clubs in Philadelphia in 1956 and in Detroit in 1958 as a law student at Wayne State and later forged a career as a labor attorney. He moved to the District in 1959, organized the DCRRC in 1961 and began promoting local races throughout the year.

Each year since 1977, the DCRRC celebrates its founding with the Hugh Jascourt Four-Mile Run.

Jascourt’s wife of 42 years — Resa, an ever-faithful volunteer — said Hugh was quite proud of starting the Bunion Derby, a series of area races during the summer to give high school students something to do.

One kid who signed up was Phil Stewart, now race director of the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler in the District every spring.

“I ran my first DCRRC race in 1967, when I was a junior in high school,” said Stewart, who went on to qualify for the 1976 Olympic marathon trials with a 2:19:58 for 22nd place at the 1975 Boston Marathon. “I’m sure Hugh was around. The names you would see back then were his name and Gar Williams. Those were the names you associated with running in D.C.

“It was a whole different era. It was a counterculture. The DC Road Runners club was the only club in town. It provided you with a connection with other people who were viewed as crazy and as offbeat as you were. He provided the organization of the DC Road Runners in June 1961.”

It was within that framework that Williams was drawn into DCRRC and ultimately RRCA.

“I met Hugh when he and a friend of his, Tom Osler, drove to Chicago when I was living there in either 1959 or 1960,” said Williams, who succeeded Jascourt as DCRRC president (1969-73) as well as RRCA president (1973-76). “My club had just become part of the national RRCA, and we were sponsoring some national race. Hugh was living in Michigan and came to the race.

“Then I moved to D.C. in 1963. It was late August, my wife and I came into town, got married on the second day in town and on the third day moved into a home in Shirlington [a section of Arlington]. We had no furniture, but we did have some cartons and an ironing board. We were having dinner and there was a knock at the door and it was Hugh Jascourt. To this day I don’t know how he knew we were there. He was like a heat-seeking missile. He was amazing in that regard. Everything that was said about his enthusiasm was true.”

The three of them ate dinner together that night, on cartons and the ironing board, according to Williams.

“He provided the framework of organizing races, and it changed my entire life,” Williams said. “It provided a lot of satisfaction for me personally.”

With Jascourt at the helm, RRCA began its advocacy for youth and women’s running and launched the “Run for Your Life” program of noncompetitive fun runs for beginning runners. He also helped start the newsletter FootSteps.

“His greatest pride, I would say, was starting RRCA and seeing it blossom and his grandson, who just turned 1,” Resa said. In fact, the Jascourts had purchased airline tickets to Phoenix to see the little boy, whom Hugh called “the light of his life,” according to Resa.

In the past 15 or so years, Resa said, Hugh kept fit by power walking every morning around Greenbelt Lake after his knees no longer allowed him to run. He had just returned home from such a walk on a blazing hot summer’s day when he died.

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