Belle Vue Mile back

By Gary Droze

Here’s cheery news for anybody whose finish time at the Gulf Winds Track Club Grand Prix mile race fell short of expectations: the Belle Vue Mile gets resurrected this year! While this event is among Tallahassee’s least traditional in terms of continuity and general organization, it does boast two consistent characteristics, both of which endear it to tightwads and PR (personal record) hounds in the running community. Namely, the Belle Vue Mile always costs but a dollar to enter, and it invariably follows a downhill course. Originally, the race plummeted westward on Belle Vue Way, a once-quiet residential stretch of tarmac near Florida State University. During the event’s heydays of the early 1990’s, the starting line sprouted a mix of area road runners, FSU track hopefuls, and prep cross country runners, all giddy with the prospect of tearing down a street that terminated 50 feet closer to sea level. Even an unfit runner stood a fine chance of earning a mile PR on that course. The real challenge for race veterans was to later casually work their astounding mile times into conversation, without the listeners guessing that the mark was set on a venue less suited for mile races than for soapbox derbies.

By the late 1990’s, so much college student housing had been shoehorned into Belle Vue Way that any seconds saved by running downhill were lost in time-consuming traffic dodging maneuvers. While the increased auto density gave the race a hint of the esprit found in “The Running of the Bulls,” a Ford Taurus packs even more wallop than nature’s version. A new site was needed.

A few years ago, the Belle Vue Mile was relocated to Miller Landing Road, a northside street with a swooping descent. In the interest of maintaining discontinuity, GWTC member Judy Alexander introduced a novel approach for race awards: potluck. Garish discards were proffered to top finishers, apparently as punishment for daring to run quickly. Among the few prizes with actual monetary value was John Kalin’s trophy: a spanking new simulated wood-grain toilet seat.

Tallahassee Parks and Recreation Official Chuck Goodheart bemusedly witnessed one of these spectacles, and then suggested the adjacent Phipps Park for the next edition of the race. It’s more than suitable in terms of severe elevation loss, so look for the next Belle Vue Mile to be contested there on November 25th, at 2:00pm.