History of Interstation Competition
By Jim Gallagher
Among the many trends that grew out of the turbulent sixties, physical fitness was and remains one of the more positive. By the mid 1970s runners were seen everywhere, not just on beaches during the summer months. People were running through neighborhoods, wearing the “running outfits” to grocery stores, restaurants, even while attending church service.

Firefighters had always prided themselves in their physical preparedness, and were legend in many sports arenas such as bowling alleys, handball courts, ski resorts and at a wide variety of other athletic venues.

A little know fact among San Francisco Firefighters is that one of the early winners of the world famous Bay-to-Breakers Race was a San Francisco Firefighter, John Holden (retired station 8).

Aerobic fitness had not been a job criteria in the SFFD. For our entrance test in 1960, the physical requirements included a 220 yard run under 31 seconds (it seemed easy at the time). Today most Fire Departments assessments employ the mile and a half in less than 12 minutes as part of a measure of fitness.

In the early 70s the promoters of the Bay-to-Breakers, in an attempt to generate broader appeal, were in contact with the Police and Fire Departments to develop an inter department competition. Also in the works was a state wide competition among fire departments, known at that time as the California Firefighters “Winter” or “Summer” Olympics. The first “California Fireman’s Summer Olympics” were held in San Francisco in 1972. Track and Field events were held a SF State University’s Cox Stadium.

The agreement among the Board of Directors was to alternate the host site between Northern and Southern California annually. In 1972 at the very first Fireman’s Summer Olympics, retired San Francisco Firefighter, Bill Posedel (Station 34) won the first California State Marathon in an impressive time of 2:36:50. Mike Lewis (ret HQ) one of the Association’s founders, snared the gold medal in the Discus with a heave of 141’2”. Jerry Trainor (retired Station 12) won the Javelin shuttling the spear a 188’ 4”. The following year, Trainor traveled to Los Angles to launch a tremendous heave of 207’ to retain the Javelin State Championship, then to top off his previous performances, in 1974 in Oakland with his leg in a cast he won with a through of 179’ 3”.

Bill Touhy (Retired Station 2), led a number of Master (over 40) San Francisco firefighters in the inaugural State Olympics to the medal stand. Touhy edged out teammate Tommy Murphy in a 12.3 second victory in the 100.

Athletics were now a major part of San Francisco Firefighter’s lifestyles. As with the sense of personal care, fitness had become part of the culture.

SFFD Interstation Competition

By 1978, a number of San Francisco Firefighter’s had participated in Walter Stack’s DSE Running Clubs weekly runs throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Among the races organized by the DSE was a practice Bay-to-Breakers run that took place the week prior to the official American Athletic Union (AAU) sanctioned race. The story behind the DSE’s Bay-to-Breakers run dates back to the 1960s and a populace reaction to restrictive controls of officials administrating road races.

At the time, racing, or road racing was limited to near professional level males. Women regardless of their level of fitness were not allowed to compete. Males who were not swift afoot could compete but little care was given to stragglers by race directors.

The DSE not only allowed women to compete but offered an equal number of awards to both men and women, an equitable yet very forward policy in 1968. For most races it was necessary to become a member of Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), this was also the case to run the Bay-to-Breakers Race. Membership in the AAU was not a requirement for the DSE organized Bay-to-Breakers Race.

Tim O’Brien and I had wanted to provide a local race venue for SF Firefighters to participate. Basically we were looking for a friendly run to generate some spirited competition among stations. We considered a number of plans for the competition that would reflect the following goals. First, we wanted to encourage all firefighters to participate and that their participation would be meaningful to the results.

Hence we devised a descending point system whereby performance would be beneficial, but also participation of members would affect the outcome. The devised scale of points awarded to each station member finishing the run ranged from a maximum of six for an outstanding performance to a minimum of a half point for anyone completing the course.

The DSE Bay-to-Breakers was an ideal venue to hold our “Interstation Competition” because it was inexpensive ($2.00 per runner in 1978) and lots of ordinary runners participated, and the Bay-to-Breakers course offered a serious challenge.

We developed our scoring technique, met with Walter Stack to insure that we could have access to the results, and announced our plan early in 1978. A competition among fire stations was born.

Our very first Interstation Competition brought 44 SF Firefighters to the Spear and Howard starting line. All finished the race, and Station 14 edged Station 6 by a mere half point. The results and a photo of most of the original participants is on our website: SFFRRC.org. The largest participation was in 1985 when 185 San Francisco Firefighters finished the 7.4 mile course.

We continued the Interstation Competition in the DSE’s Bay-to-Breakers through 1986 when the Police Department’s Permit Officer challenged the operation for lack of permit, insurance and security.

As a result we moved to the Lake Merced course, established the San Francisco Runners Club, obtained permits and insurance. Our 29th annual Interstation Competition will be held on Saturday, May 13, 2006 on the 4.5 mile Lake Merced course.

Once again we encourage all SF Firefighters to train and participate in this annual event. The specifics are that there are two divisions of station competition. First is the “Multi-Company” Division which consists of those companies with more than one company housed in their Station. This traditionally consisted of an Engine and a Truck or Rescue Squad.

Companies sharing quarters with only Chiefs such as Station 40 were considered Single Companies. In other words, a chief did not constitute a Company. The advent of Medical Units has also been disregarded in terms of changing the status of divisions. So, neither a Chief or Medical Unit changes a station to a “Multi-Company” division.

All stations with Trucks and Rescue Squads are in the “Multi-Company Division”. Anyone who is uncertain of the status of their station please contact Jim Gallagher.


The point schedule has not changed and is, for runners completing the course under:

below 28:00 6 points
28:00 - 31:59 5 points
32:00 - 35:59 4 points
36:00 - 39:59 3 points
40:00 - 43:59 2 points
44:00 - 47:59 1 point
48:00 - above 0.5 point

Volunteers also receive 3 points for their station. Stations are limited to 3 volunteers from Multi-Company Stations and 2 volunteers from Single Company Stations. Volunteers must give notice five days prior to the race date, in this year’s case by May 8, 2006.

Station Seven has dominated the Multi Company Division winning the championship eleven times. Station Twenty-Two has won the Single Company Division nine times. Stations Twelve and Forty-Three are the defending champions going into the 2006 Championship.

Larry McDonnell has won the overall individual championship ten times. Andy Assereto and Tom Ryan have won age divisions nine times each. And Megan O’Connell leads in the Women’s division having claimed seven titles.


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