2002 GWTC Hall of Fame Award

Presented by Fran McLean to Ray Hanlon

Along with being famous for his ability to out run any competitor in the last tenth of a mile, this year’s hall of Fame inductee is also known for his extensive knowledge of Andy Griffith trivia. In fact some of his favorite expressions are borrowed from classic Andy Griffith episodes.

Goober says “HEY”;
Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.
Nip it – Nip it in the bud!
Rule number one – Obey all rules.
You’d better straighten up! (a favorite of his to throw at younger runners)

You may or may not be an Andy Griffith fan, but it would be difficult not to be a fan of this Gulf Winds member AND it would be impossible to dispute the Grand Prix committee’s induction of Ray Hanlon into the GWTC Hall of Fame. In fact it’s difficult to think of a more loyal and committed member of any longer standing than Ray. He also just might be one of our most well known track club members – not just to the club, but to the running community at large – high school and middle school runners, their coaches and their parents.

In his 20 years with the track club, Ray has made his mark on the club in many ways – as a club officer, a fund raiser, a race director, a mentor, a membership recruiter, a volunteer, and a competitor.

Ray served as club president in 1991 at a time when the club was struggling financially and he was on the board as past president in 1992, 1993, and 1994. It was during these years that he specifically put his skills as a fundraiser to work. With his enthusiasm and determination, he was able to get enough of the right people involved to put the club on the road to recovery. Especially effective at accomplishing this, was a new race, the Sundown Run 5K and 1 Mile, created specifically to raise money for GWTC. Sponsored by a local restaurant the event raised more than $2000 – an excellent start toward alleviating the financial stress. Ray and Lenny Ceci continued to direct the Sundown Run for 2 more years, ultimately raising $4,300 for the club.

In addition to the Sundown Run, Ray has been the race director of Tom Brown Bash. One year he had to step in at the last minute to insure that the run would not fall through the cracks. He has directed the Steve Prefontaine 5K and of course the Wilde Mountain Scramble. Rumor has it that he even became an instant race director one morning after driving to Sneads for a 5K. Apparently the race director partied a bit too much the night before and was a no show, leaving a handful of bewildered volunteers milling around on race morning. Ray jumped into action – he helped lay out the course, placed and instructed the race workers, started the race and his watch and after handing his watch over to a finish line worker he took off with the other 40 or so runners. I would imagine if at all possible, he would have finished in first place, then wheeled around and started handing out finish cards.

Along with assisting at local high school and middle school events, Ray has offered guidance and timely advice or just lent an ear to many a young runner. Last year he went a step further, expanding his mentoring abilities by assisting Alison Eagen with her coaching duties for the Leon High Cross country teams. The boys subsequently qualified for the State championships and Ray obtained a new classification – Coach Hanlon!

Ray has been a mentor for all aged runners. There are countless times, I have witnessed him take a beginning runner under his wing. He has given them advice, run step for step with them until they learned the trails – even if it meant forfeiting his own training – and steered them toward local races and into becoming club members. What often follows under his guidance is they eventually start outrunning him, become accomplished runners, valuable club members and many times end up serving on the board or a committee. Mike Sims is a perfect example of a former Ray protégée falling into this category.

It is virtually impossible to count how many runners Ray has nudged into the club after they have joined him on a Sunday run or out at the mountain. But we DO know that in 1992, Ray indisputably won the membership recruiting contest, grabbing first place by signing up almost 30 individual or family memberships.

Ray volunteers for everything. He was awarded the 1991 Volunteer of the year and hasn’t slowed down since. From AAU and City Wide track to high school track and cross country meets, he is ever present and willing to stay without complaint from beginning until the very end.

For a number of years, Ray has assisted with the Champs middle school run, held at Gretchen Everhart school. As he has told me many times – this is one of his favorite events. For the past 12 years, he has taken leave time from his duties at Dept. of Revenue to go out to the school grounds, help set up the course and finish line and assist in any capacity needed. Recently he has added his own personal touch by decorating the finish, with a giant bouquet of helium balloons – paid for out of his own pocketbook.

And speaking of decorating – Ray is famous for his 18th mile aid station which has followed the Tallahassee marathon to its different locations. He routinely staffs this water stop with enthusiastic volunteers, refreshments, festivity, encouragement and, of course, balloons.

It is a given that year after year you will see him assisting at the following races: lap counter at the Ultra marathon, the finish lines of the Turkey Trot, Springtime 10K and 1 mile, Cookie Run, Women’s Distance Festival, Pine Run, Prefontaine 5K, The Ten Mile Challenge, Jingle Bell Run registration and finish line, summer track meets and aid stations at the Flash and the Tallahassee Marathon. (And I’m sure I have left some out)
He has also taken over the duties of social director in the past when no one was willing to come forward. And, he was here early tonight to help set up this awards program.

Often overshadowed by his volunteer efforts are his running accomplishments. And I would like to quote Rex Cleveland on Ray’s running ability:

“As a runner, his finishing kick is legendary, if they kept records for such things; he would most likely hold the record for the number of people passed in the last quarter-mile of a race. I still listen for his footsteps and check behind me, especially in the last half mile of the Rose City 10K, from force of habit”

Yes, Ray and rex did have some battles especially in 1989 where Ray ran some outstanding times while capturing second in his competitive 45 – 49 grand prix age group. A half marathon in 88 minutes, 10 miler in 66 minutes, Turkey Trot 15K in 60 minutes and a speedy Belleview mile in 4:52. I doubt that these times were his pr’s but if I had asked him, he would have caught on to this award and probably wouldn’t have told me what they were anyway.

It will suffice to say that Ray has plenty of competitive spirit. He truly loves running, races and seeing all kinds of folks out there participating. Why else would he have contributed so much over the years to the running community and to us – a group of people who should call ourselves lucky to have him as a fellow member.

Ray has been a best friend of mine for more than 20 years. His wisdom and strength have helped me through more than a few difficult times. He is my personal Hall of Famer and has now been placed into GWTC’s Hall of Fame.

Fran McLean (with Rex’s assistance)
Nominated by Rex Cleveland