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"I do not believe that winning Western States necessarily qualifies me as the toughest runner in the world. Certainly one has to consider T. J. Key, who fell victim to a rattlesnake bite six weeks before the race. Before the race a swollen and throbbing leg kept T. J. bed-ridden. However, to everyone's amazement T. J. ran and finished the 1984 Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run!"
Jim King after the '84 WS 100
Original Shirt Front! T.J. Key founded the Flatlanders in May 1980, along with Tommy Jackson, Bob Marshall and two other local runners. These first five originally called themselves the San Diego Ultra-Distance Society. They were the first club in the U.S. to devote their efforts specifically toward the sport of ultrarunning. T.J. was the Flatlanders spiritual hub, the member who extracted as much spiritual meaning as he could from the rigors of running distances exceeding 50 and 100 miles. Those men were the true endurance runners of their day. Qualifying for the club meant a strong mind and body. To join an ultrarunner had to complete the 100 mile run in under 24 hours, and then get 2/3 of the Flatlanders to vote them in. And they were good runners! In 1980 T.J. Key and Tommy Jackson, known as "Bad and Ugly", set the World Record in the two-man 24-hour relay when they ran 194 miles at an average pace of 7:09 on an outdoor track in Carlsbad, CA. Other Flatlanders included "Buffalo" Bill McDermott, who was rated 2nd nationally at the 50K distance in 1980, Bill McKean who finished in the top 10 at the 1981 Ironman, and TSI favorite Mr. Walter Stack of San Francisco, CA, whose dedication to endurance training is legendary.

Original T-Shirt Back By the late 1980's San Diego's eccentric group of ultrarunner's began to fall apart. After all, knowing that one had to complete a 100 mile run in under 24 hours to maintain membership may have been a bit stressful, time consuming, and let's face it "Hard as Sh**".

The Flatlanders had gotten together several times a year for such innocuous feats as scaling Mount San Jacino, running across Death Valley, and staging the Pacific Coast Trail 50-miler in San Diego. Several Flatlanders ranked among the top perennial finishers at Western States. And the membership was truly a cornucopia of the early 80's ultra community. Eclectic heroes such as the Cowman and Rude Nude were welcomed along with the talented runners. Ultimately, the club was a little too loosely knit however, and Key decided to end the run. So in 1988 he announced the Death of the Flatlanders and it's wildly popular Downstream Digest. Today, very little mention of it exists anywhere on the Web. However, T.J. has hard copy of many of the club's antics & accomplishments. He has supplied a full copy to Team Slug, and I will continue to build this page in an effort to preserve this small, but important piece, of ultra history.