2013 Hall of Fame Inductee

Presented by Gary Griffin

These are good days for Gulf Winds Track Club, real good days. Though this club has been around for going on 40 years (and as one who has been around for 30 of them), I believe these are “the best of times.” You see, hardly a week goes by, it seems, that I don’t find myself in conversation with someone who is extolling the virtues of GWTC. If you read Felton Wright’s column entitled “Economic Engine” on the web site this week, you get a real good summary of the impact that GWTC, now with over 2000 members, has in the local economy. Our virtues, of course, go far beyond economic contributions. We are the driving force, I believe, behind what seems to be a burgeoning commitment to improved physical fitness in the Tallahassee area. Our 2013 race calendar, as Felton notes, listed over 200 running/walking/multi-sports events in this immediate area. 

But above all of that, the most amazing thing about GWTC is the sense of community that it develops among its members. As much as we run and try and beat the clock and one another to the finish line, we look out for one another and we care for one another. If you were to look in your program tonight at the list of individuals who are members of the GWTC Hall of Fame, you can see clearly why we have become what we are. They are all, as the criteria for the award states, “individuals who have brought respect to the Gulf Winds Track Club through their contributions, activities, and running accomplishments, and who have played a major role in shaping the ideals of the club.”

Tonight’s inductee is all of this, for his contributions to the club range from an amazing array of running accomplishments to his many years as a local race director to being the driving force behind a major change in the way that we do things around here. In other words, he’s been exemplary in the use of his legs, his heart and his mind.

Let’s begin with what he’s done with his legs. He’s a former GWTC Runner of the Year, and with good reason. His lifetime bests include a sub-2 hour 30K, a 1:22 half marathon, low 37s for 10K and the low 18s for 5K. For all I know he’s run faster times than those but he’s so humble that he would never tell you. But that’s nothing. He’s a 10-time finisher of the Boston Marathon where he consistently ran under 3 hours, usually after running 37-something in the Springtime 10K 2 days before or after spending the day before the race skiing in some remote NE US snow bowl.

That’s pretty good and I could stop right there and you would be sold on his running accomplishments. But, you’ve gotta bear with me here because I’m an ultrarunner and this guy is a 20-time finisher of the Tallahassee Ultradistance Classic 50K. They say that “anyone can run an ultra because no place is too far if you’ve got the time” (and there’s a lot of truth in that) but for this guy, it never took much time. You see, of those 20 finishes, 14 of them were in under 4 hours. For those who have not run a 50K, that’s really fast. It gets better. His PR is 3:37. Oh yeah, he has won the TUDC 8 times and since 1984, no one else has ever won it more than once. But, it still gets better. The last time he won it he ran 3:50, which is really fast … and get this: he was 60 years old! Lest you think he’s not still driven to run fast, at 6:30 the morning and a few hours sleep after FSU won the national championship a few weeks ago, in 20 degree weather, he was at the Maclay track for interval workouts.

I could stop right there, but as I said earlier, his contributions and worthiness for the Hall of Fame go far beyond what he has done with his legs. For over 25 years he has been a Race Director of the race that many of you ran earlier today – the Bowlegs Run for Scholarship – which has awarded approximately 150 need-based scholarships to FSU undergrads. Peg and I have directed some races over the years and I can attest that after about 8 or 10 years of one, you’re kind of ready to hand it off to someone else and move on. But this guy has been committing himself to it for 25 years because he treasures giving back to causes that he holds dear and helping others.

Finally, you don’t think of old guys as being technological wizards and innovators, but this year’s inductee was the brains and driving force behind the club’s move to chip timing 2 years ago. His contribution didn’t end with the purchase of the system for since then he, together with Peg and Bill Lott, (two other Hall of Fame members) have become about the first persons to arrive and the last to leave the start/finish area of local races, setting up and tearing down the timing mats and equipment after delivering timely and accurate race results In doing so, he has sacrificed his own race, (much to the joy of Ron Christen and Gene Opheim, both of whom would sell their souls for Grand Prix points) …Not only that, but he has spent countless hours with Peg and Bill, ironing out problem areas in the system in order to insure quality and timely results in the 28 races that they timed in 2013. I am glad that he’s a really good and trusted friend because he’s spent more time with my wife over the past 2 years than I have!

And, above all, he’s done these things with sincere humility and kindness. I am going to ask Matt Minno, who has probably run more miles with him and put up with more of his singing than anyone else over the years, to escort our 2013 Hall of Fame inductee to the front of the room.

Please join me in congratulating Bill Hillison, the 2013 Inductee to the GWTC Hall of Fame.