Randy Sturgeon, a longtime runner who was widely influential in the sport as a coach, race director and publisher, died Sept. 4 of cancer, friends said. He was 62.
Mr. Sturgeon devoted his life to inspiring young people at Northern California high schools and masters in running clubs as an athlete, mentor and ambassador. He was a respected pioneer who recalled an early competition in 1967, when he ran cross country and track at Hogan High School in Vallejo.
“The first race I ever went to was in Point Reyes,” he told The Sacramento Bee in 1999. “I think it cost 50 cents to register. We knew it was about 7 miles, but there were no mile markers, no certification and, of course, no prize money. And most of the races continued that way right into the mid-1970s until the running boom really hit.”
Mr. Sturgeon was a fixture in the region as a trainer of top runners since he transferred from California State University, San Diego, to graduate from CSU Sacramento in the 1970s. Besides leading the first women’s cross country and track teams at El Camino High School and Del Campo High School, he coached at Cordova High School and, for the last eight years, at Granite Bay High School.
In 1987, he started one of the first professional road race coaching program for adults in Sacramento, called FAST Performance. He coached for many running clubs, including Buffalo Chips, Capital City Flyers, Christian Runners, Fleet Feet Racing and, most recently, River City Rebels.
He covered the sport as editor and publisher of Running Scene magazine, a regional publication, in the 1980s. After retiring in 2006 as a community relations officer for the state Department of Toxic Substances Control, he bought and published National Masters News, a monthly running magazine.
He served as a 5K and 10K race director and promoted track meets. He organized clinics for athletes training for the California International Marathon and did color commentary at the event for KCRA Channel 3.
A devoted mentor with an intense competitive drive, Mr. Sturgeon enjoyed sharing his love of running with others, friends said. He tailored training plans and his coaching technique to the needs of individual runners. Lean and fit, with a wide grin, he was a visible figure at many races announcing finishers, handing out trophies and cheering participants.
“It didn’t matter how fast or slow, whether you had been a runner for six weeks or 20 years – he’d say to anyone, ‘Hey, why don’t you come to our practice?’ ” said Carla Kehoe, cross country coach at Granite Bay High School. “He’d coach anyone who just showed up on Tuesday nights for speed work at (American River College) or cross country at Ancil Hoffman park.”
The youngest of four sons, Randell Eugene Sturgeon was born in 1952 in Vallejo and spent his early years in Napa. He transferred to Hogan High School as a sophomore and stood out as disciplined runner and a team leader on the way to winning the league title in the half mile, former coach Clark Millholland said.
“He had a great attitude,” Millholland said. “He enjoyed the competition and the people around him. He was always cheering and encouraging slower runners. It was all about the camaraderie.”
A 2:32 marathoner, Mr. Sturgeon took up the pentathlon several years ago and continued competing in races after he was first diagnosed with cancer in 2012. He ran a 6:04 mile on his 60th birthday, according to a report announcing his death at masterstrack.com.
“Running should be the sandbox of life – a place to get away from stresses, not create them,” he told The Bee.
Mr. Sturgeon is survived by two brothers, Russell and Roger.
A celebration of his life is set for 2 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday at Heritage Oaks Memorial Chapel, 6920 Destiny Drive, Rocklin. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to St. Jude Children’s Hospital.