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Legends of Baltimore: Dave 'Coolman' Cooley

Dave Cooley

How many of you have been yelled at by Dave Cooley at a race? It's okay to raise your hand, you're not alone. Now put it down and get over it; race directing is not for the meek and you probably deserved it.

If you have been on the Baltimore running scene for a few years, you may have had a run in with Dave. I like to think of the Coolman as the running community's puppeteer. He pulls the strings from behind the scenes, sometimes directly or indirectly; he has dabbled in every aspect to provide you with a quality race experience. "I respect his attention to every little detail," says friend and former BRRC president Nut Hall, "He has a good sense of what is best to take care of the runners."

Dave became a runner late in life and fell in love with the sport. He has been a member of the Baltimore Road Runners Club (BRRC) practically since its inception 40 years ago. Once a president two years in a row, he has always been an active member and mentor. He has completed five marathons, three of which were the original Maryland Marathon which featured the dreaded Satyr HIll. Though always a fan of running, Dave has carved his name is the running community as the man with the plan. He designed the course for the Baltimore Marathon that we run today.

"When people reach 100 they are usually 'banged up' and full of dirt," says long-time friend Tom Jennings when asked to give me dirt on this bang-up guy. Encountering endless injuries, Dave has been sidelined countless times in his own running, but that doesn't stop him from trying. Shhhh, don't tell anyone!

Though his experience and professionalism shine through the countless events he has produced, it's in the character of the man that makes him truly great. Maybe because he is nearly 80 years old, he doesn't waste time getting to the point of the matter. He does it all with a smile on his face, a wit to his tact, and an energy that radiates from him.

What can go unnoticed, and may only be seen by those who are fortunate enough to be near him, is his innate goodness and eagnerness to help. With his infinite knowledge and wisdom, he passes it on only to those who seek him out and never pushes it beyond the means.

"Dave Cooley is bar none the best human being I know, "says Josh Levinson, owner of Charm City Run, " He has built a better community and his character goes to his core." Josh describes Dave as his mentor, a father-figure, a business partner and above all, an invaluable friend. Dave was originally hired by Charm City Run to organize the 9/11 Race to Remember in 2002; the first event put on by CCR. Since then, Dave and Josh have worked together building both the store, running events, and a therefore a better running community.

At the end of 2005, Charm City Run hosted the Coolman's Last Stand race. Dave had rightfully earned his retirement, but did he? Now, Kelly Dees is running the show for the Charm City Run Events Team. She has picked up the reins and has continued the trend of professionalism and organization that was left in Dave's legacy. Still, Kelly will consult with Dave as he watches from behind the scenes. Kelly shares her message for Dave: "There is no greater gift then when one shares their time, expertise, and experience to teach another their trade and work to help that individual grow in their new role. Dave, thank you for all you have taught me, a gift for which words cannot express my appreciation."

Dave touches the lives of those around him whether knowingly or not. He gives without thought and takes a genuine interest in his community. The greater Baltimore area is a better place because of the Coolman. He currently lives in Towson with his wife of 40 years, and has a son and daughter.

Author's note to Dave: Clearly the words above are my own. You have quickly become an invaluable friend. I asked several of your friends to contribute to this, but sadly most of your friends are not very tech-savvy! However there's a saying, "People won't remember you for what you did, they will remember you for how you made them feel." Everyone I asked about you would give me a big smile and laugh at some memory of you. Your legacy is a wake of happiness and humor. You are truly one-of-a-kind!


  • Profile picture of Natalie DiTullio
    Natalie DiTullio 4 years ago

    sounds like a great guy! it's fun that he designed the course for the marathon :)

  • Profile picture of Kimberly Bogin
    Kimberly Bogin 4 years ago

    Nice tribute Erin!

  • Sharon Heidel Gontasz 4 years ago

    I worked with Dave for the same organization before retiring. He was a true professional at the workplace and on the running scene. A few years ago I reentered the running scene after a brief absence. He recognized me coming across the finish line and cheered me on with the bull horn. And at the awards ceremony when he gave me my award he said in front of everyone "Welcome back Sharon". That meant so much to me to know that I had someone on the running scene that actually cared to reach out to me as a person, as I am a bit introverted when it comes to making friends with other runners. Dave is a legend.

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