Pacers Donate to Berks County Special Olympics

We presented our donation to the Special Olympics of Berks County from proceeds from the Charlie Horse Trail Half Marathon and Dirty Pony 5K, with additional donations from race participants and the Pagoda Pacers A.C.  We made the presentation at the SO Bocce team practice at St Marco’s in Temple. The team practices once a week from August to late October and then attends a competition at Fall Fest at Villanova in November.

–Shaun Luther, race director, Charlie Horse Half-Marathon and Dirty Pony 5k

2022 Charlie Horse & Dirty Pony Just Weeks Away

When: Sunday, May 29th

Registration and Packet Pickup: 7:15 a.m.

Charlie Horse Trail Half-Marathon starts at 9:00 a.m.; Dirty Pony 5k starts at 9:15 a.m.

Start and Finish: Sleepy Hollow A.C., 482 Westley Rd, Mohnton, PA 19540

More race info at:

Register at:

Race proceeds benefit Special Olympic of Berks County


Would you like to captain an aid station? Would you like to help out in some other way?

Please contact Shaun Luther at

The How, Why, and True Reason for the Naming of the Charlie-Horse

by Charlie Crowell

I started running in the 1980s, going to local races through the 1990s with the realization early on that I enjoyed trail running over road courses. I trained and ran at home on the Horse-Shoe Trail, doing short out-and-back runs, but thought a point-to-point run would be more interesting. My favorite run was from from Hopewell Furnace at the Chester County line to Plowville which was approximately 17 miles. My Dad, a great hiker of the Horse-Shoe and many other trails, would drop me off. There I was, all alone, with a couple of water bottles, a power bar, no aid stations, and no cell phone. There was no other option but to make it home.

In the Spring of 1997, I went to New York and did Ed Hart’s “Make Your Mother Proud.”  
This was a point-to-point ultra trail run with a one-way ride in an old Greyhound bus somewhere out in the Finger Lakes. In September of 1997, I did the Conestoga Trail Run, first of twenty. This was similar to Ed Hart’s, but with school buses and only ten miles instead of thirty.

Another interest I enjoyed during this time was coaching Special Olympic athletes, year round in all sports. I did this for thirteen years with a ten-year tenure as head basketball coach. All Special Olympic sports were at no cost to the athletes and so there was always a need for funds for equipment, uniforms, venues to practice, and many other things. A light bulb went off – a fund raiser for Berks County Special Olympics!

I had a favorite run on a good trail with no roads (that changed).  Shorten the distance a little. Find a start and finish. My neighbor is the school bus contractor for Twin Valley School District. We had a great cause. Let’s do a trail run. No problem!

I kind of knew everything that had to be done, so in the Fall of 1997, I planned a trail run with a small group consisting of relatives, friends, and Pagoda Pacers, to try out the course, explain what I had in mind, and see if they had any suggestions. Mike and Denise Yoder were the Pagoda Pacers who joined us that day.  On a warm Saturday morning, we ran from French Creek to Sleepy Hollow, and then back to my home in Plowville. After a good run, we gathered around outside to talk, come up with some final plans, and drink some cold Yuenglings. Just as we started, someone in the group doubled over, yelling out in pain with a major leg cramp. Denise calmly said, “You have a Charlie-Horse!” I immediately said, “That’s it. We’ll name the race The Charlie-Horse.”
That was the final missing piece we needed: a name.

People often ask me if I ever got a chance to run the race. The answer is yes; I ran the 8th, 9th and 23rd Charlie-Horses and finished in first place over all. For the rest of this story, you’re going to have to wait for the movie to come out.

I have always enjoyed running with the Pagoda Pacers and now enjoy volunteering at their events.

Charlie Horse: A Quest for the Origin

Next year will be the 25th running of the Charlie Horse Race.  In anticipation of that milestone we are going to publish a two part series on the origin story of this race.  Part I will be a short history of the origin of the term “Charlie Horse”.  Part II will be the true story of how that term was applied to this race from the original race director, Charlie Crowell.

Now someone somewhere reading this may say “hey, weren’t there a couple of years in the early 2000’s where there was no race?” Or “hey what about the Covid year?”  Rest assured that even when there was no formal race, at least one person ran the course on Memorial Day weekend and at least one person paid an entry fee and a donation was made to the Special Olympics.

Part I — “A Quest for the Origin”

According to baseball historian Andy Strasberg, the origin of the term “Charlie horse” can be traced back to a 19th-century baseball player by the name of Joseph Quest.

Strasberg cites a couple different version of the story. Let’s start with the one that’s less likely to be accurate.

From an 1898 article in the New Castle (PA) Daily News:

Joe was employed in the establishment of Quest & Shaw, this city, learning the machinist’s trade, the senior member of the firm being his father. An old white horse named Charley was used by the firm in a wagon utilized for hauling machinery around the works. Charley had drawn so many heavy loads and was so advanced in years that he had a peculiarly wobbly gait, occasioned by his strained tendons. When Joe noticed the ball players limping around Charley’s walk was recalled in his mind and he named the condition of the players after the old horse at his father’s works.

The more probable version of the story, also from 1898, comes from Quest’s former teammate, Hugh Nichol:

Joe Quest coined the phrase a way back in 1882, in Chicago…It’s a racehorse story and it happened this way. Chicago was having an off day. Our schedule called for some eighty odd games in those seasons and we had more spare time than the big leaguers have now. There was racing down on the south side and some of the boys took great interest in it…The tip had gone out the night before that a horse named “Charley” was a sure winner that afternoon…we were all in with the exception of Joe Quest. No amount of argument could induce him to bet a copper on that horse…In the last turn Charley stumbled, went lame in his right hind leg, and the field closed up. Quest threw a fit: “Look, look!” he shouted as the first horse passed Charley. “Look at your Charley horse now.” And he kept it up. Charley finished outside the money and we didn’t hear the last of “our old Charley horse” the rest of the day.

It was during a game Chicago played the next day with Chicago’s George Gore on base and attempting a steal and about half way down Gore stepped into a pocket and sprung a strain, just the way the pony had done the day before and Quest sang out: “There’s your old Charley horse— he’d made it all right if it hadn’t been for that old Charley horse.”

Decades later, after settling in San Diego, Quest died in 1924 and was buried in an unmarked grave. Just recently, however, the Society for American Baseball Research found the money to commission a gravestone for him, thus immortalizing his idiomatic contribution.

Pacers Donate to Berks Special Olympics

by Shaun Luther

Even though we had to cancel the 2020 Charlie Horse and Dirty Pony. The Pagoda Pacers still made a donation to our charity partner, Special Olympics of Berks County. Through donation during registration or foregoing their refund, participants donated $280. The club voted to “match” that donation with $1220 from club funds for a total donation of $1500. Thank Yous go out to participants, Harold Anagnostopoulos, Charlie Crowell, Warren Drezen, Agustin & Luciana Gisinger, William Fisher, Bobbi Johnson, Chris Masterson, and Kevin Rudd. And Thank You to the Pagoda Pacers A.C. for your donation. Pictured right to left. RD Shaun, Benny Crowell, Heather Foltz from Special Olympics, RD Libby, and race founder Charlie Crowell.

Charlie Horse & Dirty Pony Canceled

Due to the ongoing uncertainty regarding the COVID-19 virus, we have sadly come to the decision to cancel both the Charlie Horse Trail Half Marathon and the Dirty Pony 5K. We have been monitoring this situation closely for a few weeks and have been holding off making this decision, hoping that a way forward would become clearer. However, we do not want to spend a lot of money in preparation for the race and then not be able to refund entry fees if we have to cancel at the last minute.

The Pagoda Pacers Athletic Club uses this race as a fundraiser for the Berks County Special Olympics, and despite not having the race this year, we would still like to make some sort of a donation. We have appealed to the runners who pre-registered to consider donating their entry fees to this fine group, assuring them we will pass along 100% to that organization.

We would also like to appeal to the membership at large to consider making such a donation to compensate for the loss of this fundraising event. Click HERE for more information about donating to Special Olympics programs across Pennsylvania, including here in Berks County.

Shaun Luther and Libby Crockart, Charlie Horse Race Directors

Letter from the President (July 2019)

Up until a few days ago I thought I’d be writing about volunteers, upcoming races, and looking forward to seeing Matt Brophy’s touch on his first Pacer Newsletter as editor.

If you’ve been current with the Pagoda Pacers Discussion Group on Facebook, you are probably aware of what has been a tumultuous July. One of my experiences in my youth was being a pallbearer for an uncle. For me, the scrawny high school kid, he was a large man both in stature, but also in how he carried himself. He looked like Lee Marvin in The Dirty Dozen. He was a factory worker–a machinist. He was also an athlete. However, his time of youthful athleticism was taken by WWII. He never spoke of his wartime experience, which I believe for him and many others was a coping mechanism.   

Grabbing that brass rail was a first for me. Carrying that casket may have been one of the most formative points of my youth. The strain of the weight while I looked down upon the flag draped in front of me left an impression that remains with my soul. I’ve told many a person being a pallbearer is an important life experience. 

Now, as a club, we mourn the loss of James Cramer, and as I thought of touching on this point in the Newsletter, something hit me. You see my experience of carrying that casket was not singular; there were others. I did not bear that weight alone. My heart goes out to Jim’s family and close friends. My utmost respect and admiration go out to the family of trail runners that made multiple trips to the AT looking for a friend. Share the good stories of Jim, and remind everyone we need not bear this weight alone.

The weather has been brutal the last few weeks. Between the rain and heat, it’s a wonder anyone has had enough motivation to change the calendar, let alone run. I think typically August is supposed to be the hot month, so if you’re training for something, find a buddy and a really early start time. Mike Whalen posted some good hints a few weeks back on the Discussion group on “hyper-hydration” and managing water intake during the heat.  Well worth reaching out to Mike if you have questions. 

As I noted in prior months, the Charlie Horse race was very successful, and we were fortunate to present a check for $3,400 to the Special Olympics and meet a few of their athletes at our July meeting.   A similar motion was approved to present to the “Friends of Nolde” our 50/50ish split from the Run for the Ages. Up next is the Grings Mill 5k and 10k

Yep, as you read this we’re soliciting for volunteers and runners for Sunday August 4th at the Berks County Heritage Center. Spend a little time with friends and fellow Pacers at possibly one of Berks’ oldest continuous running races. The work of many lightens the load. See you on Sunday.