Better Late Than Never: ’03 Tallahassee Marathon


Gary Griffin


Well, it took us to within about 16 days of the end of the year to get the 2003 Tallahassee Marathon on the books. Like Warren Emo, we squeezed in just under the wire.

Peg woke me at 4:30 on Sunday morning with the query, “Is that rain?” We were staying at the Wakulla Springs Lodge, a mere stone’s throw from the starting line, and I assured her that it couldn’t be. There are no TVs at the lodge, and when we went to bed it was nice outside without a hint of rain. Even though I was a meteorology major in college, I still had to pull back the curtains to assure myself that the noise she heard was not precipitation hitting the roof. Oops. Wrong again. It looked strangely like that day 10 months before when we attempted to stage the 2003 edition of this long-running affair. This time, though, there would be no cancellation. These runners were going to swim the course, if it came to that, because this was one show that had to go on! Dawn arrived without a hint of sunshine, but as our 45 runners arrived along with our ever-faithful volunteers, it was apparent that this was going to be a fun day.

There were too many high hopes for it not to be! We had the aforementioned Mr. Emo going for a Boston qualifier in his first marathon – and FSU prof David Darst toeing the line after standing for three hours the day before as the MC at the FSU graduation ceremonies. There was Anne-Marie Trivette from Virginia who was supposed to run her first marathon the day before at Tybee Island, only to have her husband throw a detour into those plans by choosing the same day to be awarded his Ph.D., at FSU. No problem: marathoners are flexible and there happened to be one taking place near Tallahassee the next day. Anne Marie made the most of the opportunity and her husband was there to cheer her on. There were the two mainstays of the Tallahassee Marathon: Mike Schneider and Nick Mazza. Mike was there for the 25th year, and Nick didn’t let a little thing like the 50 miler he ran the prior day keep him from his 23rd. And – the local speedsters were there as well: Marathon Jack McDermott, Jay Silvanima and another first-timer, Mike Sims. Further joy came in the form of the running Clevelands – Rex and Mae, and further insanity came in the form of Fred Johnson, Scott Ludwig, and Prince Whatley – all of whom ran the 50 miler the day before. Yes – this was going to be fun!

The early leader was Winter Park, Florida’s Clarence Calloway. Personally, I am surprised that Clarence ever came back to run in Tallahassee after what Dana Stetson and I did to him at the marathon back in about 1993. On the old Auscilla course that had about …. oh, 3 turns in 26 miles, we led him astray on our bikes. I’m sure he figured that, on a closed loop like Wakulla, even Dana and I couldn’t get lost. He built a sizeable lead with a sustained 6:45 pace, only to see it dwindle and finally disappear by lap 10 (21 miles). At that point he was overtaken by Mexico Beach’s Michael Western who never let up and cruised to 10 minute victory in a fine 2:50:32. Jack McDermott fought off some mid-miles malaise, (probably brought on by the fact that he ran a tough Seattle Marathon course a mere two weeks ago), and edged Clarence for second place in 3:01:01. Clarence’s game 3:01:36 left him in third place and winner of the Master’s trophy. The men’s Grand Master’s winner was Bill Bowers in a fine 3:26:55.

The women’s race was exciting as well, at least until Julie Clark was forced to exit. Are knee injuries contagious? One would have thought so, as one lap after husband Myron was forced out with knee pain, Julie exited while looking strong and leading the women’s field. That left it to Tallahassee’s Kathy Pike to win it – and win it she did! In only her second marathon Kathy ran like a veteran, never looked back, and cruised to a 17 minute win over Monticello’s Pam Scholfield in 3:34:48. The master’s winner was Tallahassee’s Jane McPherson in 4:23:58, and the grandmaster’s award went to another member of the Monticello marathon team – Juanice Hagan – in 4:20:40.

The story would not be complete without a note on the efforts of the aforementioned Warren Emo. I witnessed Warren’s marathon preparation in the months leading up to the planned February 2003 event. He did many hard and fast miles, and was a running machine. The cancellation of the event had to be a big disappointment, and the chance to capitalize on that fitness never presented itself in the weeks that followed. He maintained his edge through the torrid summer months, however, and arrived at Wakulla Springs with his Running Sloth pacing crew of Bill Perry and Jerry McDaniel in tow. He needed a 3:35 to qualify for Boston in April, and Billy and Jerry were perhaps as determined as Warren to see that he got it. Those of you who have ever watched Sloth marathon preparation know that it is very clinical. Every training run is planned ad nauseum and analyzed backwards and forwards. On race day it is the same. A mile split that is 10 seconds off-pace is reason for panic. I don’t know what happened for the first 26 miles yesterday, but I saw the last point 2. Warren Emo crested the only hill on the Wakulla course with the clock showing about 3:33:30. The finish line crew, led by lap counter and training mate Mary Jean Yon, began to scream and count down the seconds. Warren had to be running on empty at about that point, but he was not going to let some of the Sloth failures of marathons past be his legacy. Just because he trains with ’em, doesn’t mean he’s gotta race like ’em. In what in retrospect was never in doubt, Warren crossed the line in 3:34:47, earning himself a trip to Hopkinton this coming Patriot’s Day. Way to go, Warren. You added to the very real fun of this overdue Tallahassee Marathon 2003.