John F. Scimone founded the Lakeland Runners Club in 1974. He was an avid walker, like his dad, Chico, from Taormina, Sicily. Born in Medford, Mass. in 1935, John moved his family from Mobile, Ala. to Lakeland in 1967. He was a mail carrier and got plenty of walking in on the job.

In November 1974, he measured the course and helped the Lakeland Recreation Department put on the first Civic Center Runs, a 2.5 and 5 miler. They were the first organized road races in Lakeland in recent history and one of the first races in all of Central Florida. From the beginning, John included a competitive walk event with the races and he participated in them with great vigor.

The start of the LRC is charted from that first Civic Center Race. Scimone was also responsible for the Lake Parker 20K, the Saddle Creek Park 4 mile, the Joker Marchant Stadium 4 mile (later named the Flag Day 4 mile), the Denison Stadium 1-hour run, the Lakeland High 10K, and, along with Harold Walker from the old Athletic Attic store and the former Lakeland Mall on Memorial Blvd., the Lake to Lake 10K. John was also a board member of the Polk County Youth Soccer League and he coached the Celtics Youth Soccer Team.

Scimone’s leadership of LRC ended in 1978.  He passed away a year later at the young age of 44 due to cancer.  

The club continued and joined the YMCA as a nonprofit custody account in the early 1980s.  In 1990, the club separated from the YMCA and joined the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA).  In 1997, the club incorporated as a non-for-profit corporation in Florida as the Lakeland Runners Club, Inc. 

The LRC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit subordinate organization of the RRCA.

LRC Past Presidents:

Lakeland Runners Club

1974—1977: John Scimone

1978: Norm Strand and Rob Mason

1979—1982:  Rob Mason 

Lakeland Family YMCA Runners Club

1983—1987:  Rob Mason 

1988: Bob English

1989: Don Roberts

1990: Rich Mistretta

Lakeland Runners Club, subordinate 501(c)(3) under the RRCA

1991: Rich Mistretta

1992: Bob Trimble

1993: Dan Windley, Bob English

1994: Dianna Campbell

1995: Judy Cline

1996: Bob English

Lakeland Runners Club, Inc., subordinate 501(c)(3) under the RRCA

1997: Bill Little

1998:  Fred Wiechmann

1999:  Richard Fansler

2000:  Jim Pearson

2001:  Matt Werd

2002:  Nick Sudzina

2003—2004: Bucham Walsh

2005: Sue Abrahsom (a few months – transferred out of state)

2005—2007: Louis Irwin

2008: Steven (Hank) Hankins

2009: Rob Mason

2010—2014: Bryan Graydon

2015: Chuck McDanal

2016—2018: Gail Hardy

2019—2021: Sarah Kozul

2022—2023: Michelle Hoffert