History of TAPPI Conference Fun Runs by Frank Sutman and Steve Ottone

BE&K and Pulp and Paper Magazine started the “Paper Chase 5K” at the 1983 Engineering Conference in Dallas. Scott Robertson and Ken Patrick were the fathers of this TAPPI running movement. This scholarship fundraiser event has had a thirty-year run, being held annually except for a one-year hiatus. Now organized by a PEERS conference committee, the event has raised many thousands of dollars for endowed scholarships at pulp and paper throughout the US. During the 1980s-1990s hey days of

Engineering Conferences, these events would attract close to a hundred people who would get up pre-dawn on a Tuesday morning to be transported to a local park for some fun and exercise. This event has been held at some amazing venues, such as

  • Along the Charles River in Boston
  • Along Lakeshore Drive in Chicago
  • San Francisco’s Presidio Park
  • Inside the Philadelphia Zoo

and some less than impressive venues, such as multiple laps around a hotel parking lot. One memorable event was in 1992, when Andy Jones broke the world record for 5000 meters in the Nashville Opryland Hotel parking lot. We figured the course was about 25% short at 2.4 miles. All have been fun events! The Paper Chase concept popularity expanded to a few TAPPI annual meetings during the big exhibit years such as 1996 and 1999. These were “Special Edition” Paper Chases. Parallel occasional efforts developed as the “EnviroChase” at the Environmental Conference and even a “Digester Dash” at the Pulping Conference. Upon his retirement in 1995, BE&K stalwart Scott Robertson was honored with a Certificate of Distinguished Merit for starting and sustaining the TAPPI fun run concept. Bo Gilbert sustained the event for many years thereafter before it became a PEERS Committee function in 2012. The Coating Conference also held fun runs to raise money for their division scholarship fund. Bill Powell planned the first TAPPI Coating Runs, at Nashville and Philadelphia in 1996-1997. The following two years, Steve Ottone planned the Coating Runs for New Orleans and Toronto. Jane Thompson (Shulenberg) planned the next few before we stopped them in about 2003. Baltimore was the first Coating Conference where there wasn’t a Coating Run. Rex Robertson organized a “Runnability 5K” at the 1993 Papermakers Conference in Atlanta. Though popular, it failed to gain traction as an annual event. A few unsuccessful attempts were made to bring a fun run back to the Papermakers Conference. Finally, in 2004, a committee was formed to organize an annual scholarship fundraiser event. The charter committee consisted of Alfred Li, Mary Toney, Nancy Ross Sutherland, Frank Sutman, and Karen Van Duren. The re-born “Runnability 5K” debuted on the Milwaukee lakefront in the spring of 2005. There were about 40 participants and 11 sponsors. The organizing committee has kept the event going strong. This has become a full-fledged TAPPI Community with 17 members and regular conference calls. Participation has grown at times to nearly 100 runners and walkers. Like the Paper Chase, there have been some incredible venues, such as

  • The St. Louis Arch
  • Atlanta’s Piedmont Park
  • Jacksonville’s North Bank Riverwalk
  • New Orleans’ Audubon Park
  • Cincinnati’s Sawyer Point Riverfront Park

and a few that were less than inspiring. Regardless of the venue, everyone had fun! In 2013 the event had a record 33 sponsors. It had close to 100 participants in 2012. Through 2013 the Runnability 5K has raised over $83,000 for five divisional scholarship funds. Initially we supported the Paper & Board and Engineering Division Scholarships. Over the years the support has expanded to include the Coating Division, and the commissioning of new scholarship funds for the Process Control and Product Quality Divisions. Everyone who comes out has a good time! These events would not happen without the loyal support of industry sponsors.

Thank you!