Running for fun at the West Thompson Dam

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Thompson - posted Mon., Jul. 11, 2011
Bob Mayer stands near the course marker on Shoreline Road. Photos by D. Coffey.
Bob Mayer stands near the course marker on Shoreline Road. Photos by D. Coffey.

Running has been such an instrumental part of Bob Mayer's life that even knee replacement surgery in 2009 hasn't squelched his love of the sport. His rehabilitation kept him from running for a year, but when he could return to it, he did.

These days, Mayer coordinates the West Thompson Fun Runs held on Wednesday nights throughout the summer at the West Thompson Dam. All joggers, walkers and spectators are welcome to participate in the 3.1-mile event. For those who would rather do a shorter version of the course, there is also a 1.6- mile version available.

Mayer started the fun runs in Putnam about 10 years ago. When he found that there was a better course at West Thompson, he received permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to use it for the runs. They've been held at West Thompson for almost eight years.

The location is beautiful, part of the trail runs parallel to the lake, and the route is circular. You can't get lost, Mayer said. And the best part is that he doesn't have to set out cones. His preparation consists of registering participants before each race.
There is a one-time-only application/waiver for all runners. The reason for the application is threefold: Participants must release the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the race director and sponsors from any liability; Mayer has to know how many runners there are, so he doesn't pack up before all runners return; and all runners get a t-shirt after completing three events. “Even if they walk the course,” he said.

The event brought out 380 people in 2010. “On July 6, we had 36 people,” Mayer said. “They were all skill levels. Some people do it to perfect their times. Other people do it strictly for the exercise. You have some people that just do it for the scenery.”

As the name implies, the point of the runs is simply to have fun. The course is part asphalt, part mulch and sand. One section brings runners along the Shoreline Road, which follows the lake. Another leads runners along the Old Ravenelle Road through quiet woods. There are no cars. And because it is a circular trail, some weeks they'll run it clockwise, other weeks they'll run it counterclockwise.
“If you run it counterclockwise, you have to go up the hill,” Mayer said. “If you run it clockwise, you go down the hill, so your time is a little faster.”

“Basically, it's a great way to meet different people,” he said. “We have male and female runners. We have all ages. We even have some walkers. It's pretty diversified. Everyone has their own reason for coming.” And the spot is beautiful, he said. “Often you don't appreciate what you have right in your own backyard.”

Mayer has been running regularly since the late '70s, when Bill Rogers was making a name for himself with his Boston and New York City marathon wins. And though he isn't as young as he used to be, Mayer can't imagine giving up running for something like yoga. “It's part of me,” he said. These days he runs with a group of diehard running buddies as well as his German shepherd, Heidi. The dog does more than provide company on the runs. “It helps to focus on the dog when I'm having a bad day running,” said Mayer. “She takes away the difficulties.”

For more information on the West Thompson Dam Fun Runs, contact Bob Mayer at

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