The "Event"

Dec. 4, 2014
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For anyone who was around OSC in the 1970s and 1980s the annual Saguaro Race is legendary. Supposedly, it all began in 1973 at a party when several OSCers, under the influence of a bit too much sangria, began talking about jogging and who was the fastest runner. 

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A contest was proposed to settle the question and a modest wager made to ensure the participant’s sincerity. The group decided to hold this momentous challenge on the morning of the OSC picnic, a tradition that was continued for many years. And what better place than around the 8.3-mile loop drive at Saguaro National Monument East, with its rolling hills and steep ascent in the middle of the course?

Personally, after hearing many stories depicting years of the Saguaro Race, I am convinced the second year of the contest, 1974, earned a firm place in OSC history due to the sheer creativity of one of the faculty participants, Jack Gaskill. Jack, to this day, is still quick to point out that this was an “event,” not a foot race and that everyone was invited to “participate,” not run. So begins the recounting of the legend.

The day of the “event,” a crowd of fans, timekeepers and hecklers turned out to witness the contest. After the starting shot was sounded, Jack quickly ran for half a mile, outdistancing the others who were pacing themselves for the hill to come. He then dashed into the bushes where he donned a beard, wig and different set of clothing and mounted a previously hidden bicycle. When the rest of the runners had passed, he emerged from his hiding place casually pedaling to pass the pack incognito. Finally, the bicycle was discarded, along with hippie garb, and Jack ran victoriously across the finish line.

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Later, at the picnic, he was accused of being less than honest, but the accusers were unable to substantiate their charges. Nowhere in the previously signed agreement (drawn up by Jack) was the word “run” (or any of its derivatives) mentioned, and nowhere was a statement prohibiting the riding of a bicycle. The frustrated accusers then resorted to mob action and threw Rascal Gaskill into a dirty pond.

Recently, I asked Jack about going to great lengths to hide behind a wig and beard if he had felt his actions were completely on the up-and-up. He quickly corrected my use of the word “hide,” pointing out that he was just following his dermatologist’s instructions to protect himself from the hot Tucson sun. And, to protect himself from further sun damage the following year ... he arrived at the picnic dressed in scuba gear and carrying his rubber ducky.