Steamboat Classic is more than a road race. It's 50 years of unforgettable moments (2024)

Dave EminianPeoria Journal Star

PEORIA — The Steamboat Classic began with 155 runners in 1974 in downtown Peoria.

It grew to thousands of participants over the half-century that followed and brought the event to its 50th anniversary race this weekend.

In between, there have been countless firsts, funny moments, world-class runners setting world records, and much more.

2024 Steamboat Classic: Start time, signups and more for Peoria's iconic road race

Philip Lockwood has seen more of it than anyone over his 30 years at the race's helm. He sat down and shared some of his favorite memories as he served as the Steamboat race director for the final time over the weekend. Come Sunday, he'll be retired from the job and the race will be managed by ShaZam Racing.

Lockwood chose his exit to happen on the course, joined by a group of Steamboat Classic Hall of Fame inductees to walk the 4-mile race together.

"I'll cross the finish line for the first time 42 years," Lockwood, 62, said before the race. "It's going to be an emotional moment for me."

How the Steamboat Classic started

Steve Shostrom founded the race and launched it in 1974. A few years later, Lockwood was working at Peoria's Running Central when Shostrom came in and handed him a pile of envelopes.

"Steve said, 'Sort these out,' " Lockwood said. "I opened them and they were Steamboat registrations. And so it began. I was the race registrar."

Shostrom retired from his role as director after 20 years, and abruptly told Lockwood he was the new man at the helm. "I screwed up at the end of 2014, when I had my 20 years done," Lockwood said, laughing. "I didn't have a successor in mind like Steve did. So I'm still here."

No shortage of plot lines Steamboat Classic

Lockwood had a stroke on May 31 and has been walking himself back into fitness.

"Among the people walking the 4-mile with me will be Ray LaHood (former U.S. Secretary of Transportation)," Lockwood said. "He'll be wearing No. 18. In 2009, right after Ray was announced as Secretary of Transportation, I sent him an email saying we had a 4-mile stretch of road in Peoria that needed his attention. He ran in 25 Steamboat races."

More: 'Time to go': Steamboat Classic director reaches finish line at helm of legendary race

Lockwood laughed as he recalled how two Journal Star sports guys, Gary Childs and Kirk Wessler, dueled on the course one year. "Childs out-kicked Kirk right at the end to win," Lockwood said. "I don't think Wessler was very happy about it. And Gary always reminded him."

Dave Hoover was the first runner to cross the finish line in Steamboat Race history, winning the inaugural 4-mile race in 1974. He's scheduled for induction into the Steamboat Hall of Fame amid the 50th race.

Bev Enslow is set to run in the 50th anniversary race Saturday. She is the last athlete to compete in every Steamboat Classic. The Hall of Fame inductee and Germantown Hills resident has won six Steamboat titles.

"One more memory I can't leave out is honoring my dad, Ken, as Honorary Race Director on his 75th birthday in 2010," Lockwood said. "He was a longtime race volunteer. It was great to add more celebration to Father's Day weekend."

Lockwood says volunteers have been essential to the race's growth over the years. One of them, for instance, is Joe Gilfillan, who has run the 15K water station in all 50 races.

And the Steamboat Classic has seen world records in the 4-mile set multiple times. The existing men's and women's world records in the 4-mile today are from the Steamboat race. The 4-mile race has produced 42 different national records on the closed-loop course. World records in the 4-mile have been set at Steamboat seven times.

Great moments from the Steamboat Classic

  • 1977: "The first time I ran in Steamboat," Lockwood said. "I remember running out toward Glen Oak Park and counting the people running past me on their way back down to figure out what place I was in."
  • 1982: A 20-year-old Lockwood finished fourth in the 15K, wearing bib No. 5. He ran 47:40, still one of the top 15 efforts in the 15K in Steamboat history.
  • 1985: Steamboat invited its first international runner, Britain's Priscilla Welch, who had run in the first Olympic women's marathon the year before. "She came here and won it," Lockwood said. "That electrified our committee to bring international runners in, and we put together some modest prize money."

More: 'A homecoming': Peoria native is the only athlete to run in every Steamboat Classic road race

  • 1986: Mexico star Arturo Barrios — ranked at the time as the best road racer in the U.S. — set the world record in the 4-mile in 17:34.
  • 1986: Lorraine Moller (New Zealand) won the 4-mile in a women's world record of 20:24. A year later she did it again, cutting 8 seconds off. "Moller was a four-time Olympian, and she won the bronze in the marathon in 1992 at Barcelona," Lockwood said. "She returned to Steamboat in 1993 with her Olympic bronze medal in hand to show everyone. It was amazing."
  • 1989: "We had these long exit chutes set up at the finish line," Lockwood said. "Andrew Lloyd (Australia) won the 4-mile and stopped halfway through those chutes, turned around, and tried walking back toward the finish line. I remember Steve Shostrom went into an absolute frenzy. Lloyd looked at him and said, 'Hey, it's just a road race mate.' "
  • 1992: "A very significant year. The previous year the IOC had lifted the apartheid ban on South African athletes participating in international competition," Lockwood said. "So for the first time in over three decades they could run freely. Mark Plaatjes, a South African with political asylum in the U.S., helped arrange for runners to come here." A trio of South African runners ran the 4-mile, including Xolile Yawa, Matthews Motshwarateu and Meshack Mogotsi. They all settled into the 2-5 slots.
  • 1993: Two Kenyan runners dueled to the finish in the 4-mile and a drama unfolded. Lameck Aguta roared off from start and built a sizable lead over fellow Kenyan Benson Masya. Coming back down the hill on Hamilton toward finish line, he was running with his head down, a style he was known for. A police officer stationed at the corner of Hamilton and Washington — to keep runners from making a wrong turn — had left to answer a call for service. "That corner was unattended," Lockwood said. "Lameck made a wrong turn right there and was halfway down the block going the wrong direction. Masya slowed down to let Lameck get back on the course. Now at the time Benson was ranked the best road racer in the world and only lost one race — that one. "It was one of the greatest acts of sportsmanship I've ever seen."
  • 1994: Lockwood said he remembers the launch and growth of the Building Steam programs in 1994, and noted they were important because they produced so many quality future runners.
  • 1995: Two runners from Kenya broke world records in the 4-mile. Josphat Machuka set the men's mark — which still is the world record today — when he blazed through in 17:24. Delilah Asiago set the women's world record in 19:28 for women's world record, which also still stands.
  • 1995: In the 15K draw, Namibia marathoner Luketz Swartbooi — who was second in the World Marathon Championships a year earlier — set the Steamboat course record in 45:34. He had intended to run the 4-mile, but saw the stacked field and switched to the 15K.
  • 1999: Morocco runner Khalid Khannouchi three-peated as 4-mile champion. Carey Pinkowski, longtime director of the Chicago Marathon, came down to see him run. He predicted to Lockwood that the Moroccan would set the world record, and he did — at the Chicago Marathon that fall.
  • 2002: Peoria native Tim Broe became the first local winner of the 4-mile race during its prize-money era. In 2004, he ran the 15K as a training exercise, finishing 20th. "People were saying he wouldn't make the Olympic team," Lockwood said. "Then he won the Olympic Trials."
  • 2003: "We had a runner from Romania here, Constantina Tomescu-Dita, and she won the women's 4-mile in 2003 and 2005," Lockwood said. "Then she went on to win the women's marathon in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. That was so rewarding."

Lockwood has more, much more. The reminiscing pushed toward 70 minutes and turned to the idea that he should do a book someday.

"I think my favorite memory is going to be when it's all over," Lockwood said. "I really am going to think of all this from something Bill Walton once said: 'I'm not into being remembered. I learn from yesterday, I dream about tomorrow, but I try to make today my masterpiece. I try my best to be better, to do better, and to do more. I'm the luckiest guy in the world.' "

Dave Eminian is the Journal Star sports columnist, and covers Bradley men's basketball, the Rivermen and Chiefs. He writes the Cleve In The Eve sports column for He can be reached at 686-3206 or Follow him on @icetimecleve.

Steamboat Classic is more than a road race. It's 50 years of unforgettable moments (2024)


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