A Perfect Day for a Marathon

David Yon, February 1, 2009

Weather in the mid 30’s signaled good things were in store for more than 600 participants in the 2009 Tallahassee Marathon and Half Marathon. It was a bit chilly for the volunteers, but Mark Priddy was spotted leaving his house bundled up at 4 something to make sure the course was set up and the runners were protected. Runners began arriving in the dark at the course start at Tully Gym an hour or so before the 7:30 start. The course would take them for a loop around the medical school, out past Dick Howser Stadium, by Doak Campbell and eventually on to the St. Marks Trail. They would finish up much later on Mike Long Track to the cheers of friends and family.

For George Towett and Nina Craft those perfect conditions meant taking away not only first place price money, but also nice bonuses for breaking the course records. Both of them ran unchallenged to wins with Towett breaking the old course record of 2:23:55 with a time of 2:20:30, a 5:29 pace. The old record was set in 1983 by Mike Patterson. Towett, a Kenyan who now calls Marietta, Georgia home took off from the start intent on taking the record down. He did just that to claim the $750 first prize and $1,000 bonus prize. Charlie Johnson and John Robida had a much closer battle for second place with Johnson running a very strong 2:42:07 to grab the second spot, while Robida took third place with a 2:44:54 finish. That was good enough to earn them $500 and $250 respectively.

Nina Craft took a long road to get to the Tallahassee, Marathon, but once here she also took advantage of the ideal conditions to break the course record and earn the $1750 in prize money that went with the great performance. She ran 2:45:06 to take down Valerie Gortmaker’s two year old record of 2:46:08. Craft, who is from Germany but now trains in Claremont had to overcome some adversity to make this event. An outstanding triathlete, she made a mistake in 2005 and let a coach talk her into using a banned substance. After admitting to the mistake and sitting out for two years, she came back with a vengeance and won the 2007 Ironman Florida in a time of 9:05:35. Sunday, she proved she is quite the marathoner as well! Tamara Kozulina, from the Ukraine, who also calls Claremont home for now, finished in second in 2:55:06. Lisa Vail came up from Gainesville to grab third place in 2:55:44. Beth Woodward was the fourth women’s finisher under 3 hours with a time of 2:59:24. I feel fairly confident this in the first time there have ever been four women under 3:00 hours at the Tallahassee Marathon.

Michael Martinez flirted with the 3 hour mark, but settled for the masters title and a good time of 3:02:50. Daniel French from Brooksville made sure Martinez had to work for the masters title as he was second in 3:04:45. Elizabeth Diamond was the female masters winner crossing the line in 3:38:50 ahead of second place master Jennifer Shafer who ran 3:47:24.

The great weather produced the largest crowd ever for the half with 413 finishers. I have often said the half might be my favorite distance and apparently a lot of people agree. Barry College’s running teams seem to agree as they made the Half Marathon their target. Peyton Hoyal ran a very impressive 1:12:31 to lead the crew and win the half marathon. He was followed by Ian Adams and Brady Bennett who took second and third with times of 1:13:01 and 1:13:21. Courtney Cooper led the women’s team with a win in a time of 1:23:33, finishing ahead of Tallahassee’s Lisa Johnson who ran very strong with a time of 1:24:17. The top masters were Gary Cohen, who was 17th overall and Jane Johnson who ran 1:30:45.

The day wasn’t quite perfect for race directors Jay Silvanima and Nancy Stedman-Laux as a large transformer blew and the power went down on most of campus. But they managed to work through it all – in part with help from Nancy’s dad who rushed off the get gasoline to power the generators. Still they put together a great event – Jay even sampled the fair, running a time of 3:19:19!