In 1979, there were only a handful of African-American runners in Southwest Atlanta. Two of them, Jim Lemon and the late Jerry McClain, worked for federal agencies and saw each other occasionally at a downtown health spa. They began running together at the old Arlington Christian School track, and on Saturdays through the neighborhoods as they prepared for the WSB 5K Fun Run and the Peachtree 10K Road Race. During their runs through the Camp Creek, Fairburn Road and Welcome All Park areas, they encountered a few other runners while noting the lack of an organized running group on the South Side. 

Two of the runners occasionally encountered by Jerry and Jim, Gary Jenkins and Julius “Gunner” Harrison, later joined them in their informal practice sessions and training runs for the Peachtree Road Race. Three of the four won T-shirts in the Peachtree Road Race and afterwards decided to celebrate over piña coladas. Their conversation centered on how to increase the number of runners in Southwest Atlanta and create a formal organization. Six other men recruited at health spas, road races and tracks soon joined the small group regularly. After the Saturday morning runs, they shared experiences and talked about the value of running for losing weight and improving their health. 

In December 1979, the ten regulars decided to formally organize. These charter members decided to name the club the South Fulton Running Partners (SFRP). They wrote and adopted a charter and by-laws. Teal blue and white were chosen as the official colors. The club’s motto became “Running Partners Have More Fun.” And a silhouette of two runners became the first logo. 

Word spread rapidly that the newly formed club was running on a regular basis, and others who saw them at the track or during one of their Saturday runs joined them. Candidate members were required to participate in a minimum of three consecutive Saturday morning runs. Initially all-male, the SFRP admitted Sharon Riley in 1981 as its first female member. Following its initial formation, the members of the newly formed South Fulton Running Partners decided to undertake a community service. 

One of the first activities undertaken by the group was a 7K road race in April 1980 with the proceeds to be given to an African-American charity. Several organizations were considered but the Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia was chosen, with proceeds to benefit a summer camp for children with sickle cell disease. The South Fulton Running Partners continued to manage the race, alongside the Sickle Cell Foundation until 2016.

Since 1979, more than 100 men and women have become South Fulton Running Partners. No longer predominantly male and under 35, the club now spans two generations. And members have come not just from the continental United States but Nigeria, Canada, Senegal, and the Caribbean.  

Jerry McClain often remarked South Fulton Running Partners was meant to be a running fraternity of not more than 35 members so that the members would get to know each other intimately. (The maximum number of members was later increased.) The club was also envisioned as a multi-dimensional organization designed to give runners an opportunity to measure themselves against others, and to strengthen relationships beyond running through social functions and civic activities. The concept of fellowship has remained highly valued over the years, with the constant bond being the shared love of running and fitness.