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There is only one Great Pot Luck Bash 4-Mile Run

David Yon, June 5, 2018

The Pot Luck Bash is truly a unique, some might even say oddball, event.  It is the only race in town where the race director is truly loathed. Actually, I should clarify that. The race is under the direction of the Chenoweth Committee.  The loathing is never directed at committee members Toma Wilkinson, Mary Register, David Altmaier or Myrna Hoover.  It is saved for the author of this article.

The event is unique in that it starts at 6:00 p.m. on a summer day in Tallahassee (Yes, June 9 is summer in Tallahassee.)  In addition, runners are not permitted to participate using any kind of a timing device.  The course traverses the trails in Elinor Phipps Park and is tough, but beautiful. Awards are given to the runners who most closely predict their finishing times for the four-mile course. What would the challenge be in that, if runners were able to use timing devises?  And just to add to the quirkiness, for the last 5-10 years, the race director has been known to change the course without any advance notice. Finally, the most prestigious awards go, not to the race participants, but to area high school competitors to recognize their outstanding performances.

But this is one of those magic evenings that usually leads to forgiveness. The terrain of the Phipps Park includes some of Tallahassee’s most unique and beautiful trails.  The Pot Luck course takes runners around old giant oak trees, along alluvial streams and creeks, and through places like the Swamp Forest Loop, Coon Bottom and more. It is a site on the Great Florida Birding Trail and a host to 75 butterfly species on the Butterfly Trails. Who would not want to get lost in these special places.  Fortunately, the course is usually marked well enough to keep anyone from straying off course, but that doesn’t mean a runner will recognize the surroundings or be able to calculate the distance to the finish. Regardless of what I am called or who wants to strangle me, it is a great way to enjoy running. 

In addition to the “back to nature” running promoted by the race, the Pot Luck Bash promotes the Chenoweth Fund.  The purpose of the Chenoweth Fund is to promote running and fitness in the Big Bend area by assisting local running organizations, individuals and members of GWTC in their efforts to achieve athletic or academic excellence. As a practical matter this support has gone almost exclusively to youth running programs.  Since its inception the Fund has distributed over $135,000 to more than 220 runners or organizations. Underfunded elementary, middle and high school running programs are the main beneficiaries. This year, for some reason, hurdles have been the hot item. The Chenoweth Fund has assisted three schools in acquiring hurdles.   

Immediately after finishing the race runners are treated to a pot luck dinner that features an amazing low country boil.  During that time (usually starts around 7:30 p.m.), GWTC recognizes its version of the high school athletes of the year awards in cross country and in track and field.  Coaches nominate the athletes and the Chenoweth Committee members select the winners.  Eleven runners were nominated for awards this year by five different coaches. For the list of nominees follow this link. Last year, in honor of Paul Hoover, a beloved coach and member of GWTC, the Chenoweth Committee added a new award known as the Paul Hoover Leadership Award.  This award goes to the competitor who best demonstrated “Hoover Character,” i.e. the athlete who demonstrates the ability to rise up to the challenges in life, demonstrates a positive attitude, shows a willingness to support teammates and encourages other runners, demonstrates a willingness to work hard and, finally, who understands what “go Hoover or go home” means.

This year’s running course will be the same as last year’s, so I hope that saves me a few bruises.  During the Pot Luck run the course will become the “Hoover Trail.” It is not going to be sad and gloomy, but a way to celebrate the sport we all love by remembering the words of a man who helped make it a sport to love for so many people.  So, when you start that uphill journey in the second half of the race, remember Coach’s admonishion: “That is not a hill, it is an opportunity.”  For more information about the Chenoweth Fund visit http://www.gulfwinds.org/Chenoweth/chen_index.asp.  To register go to Eventbrite.com and look for Great Pot Luck Bash 4 Mile Run.