By David Yon
If you asked me to select one event that best reflected GWTC, I would have a hard time selecting a better example than the Christmas Eve Run to St. Marks and or Posey’s. More than anything else it is a gathering of family and friends. The run roughly follows the path of the old Tallahassee-St. Marks Railroad line.
Tony Kronenburg gives the following account of the “first” Run to Posey’s on Christmas Eve morning 1980. “As Christmas approached with no family to visit and no one to spend the holiday with I decided to run to St. Marks via the rail line to St. Marks on Christmas Eve day. As a long time railroad fan I recognized that yet another rail line was headed for extinction. (I remain a member of the Gulf Winds Railroad Historical Society to this day as well as the Gulf Winds Track Club.) I also enjoyed the countryside, and wanted to do something that would be memorable for Christmas. I enlisted Joe Blessing to join me, and Joe in turn invited two younger guys who were FSU physics majors. Although I can picture these young and very bright guys who were outstanding runners I can not recall their names 25 years later.”
They parked at the corner of the Truck Route and Woodville Highway, and found it easier to run on the shoulder of the highway until just north of Woodville. From there they turned off onto a dirt road that closely paralleled the railroad tracks. After running to the south side of Woodville they ran on the tracks until reaching highway 98. At that point they crossed back over to the highway and ran the remaining distance to the Fort at St. Marks. Of course they topped off the run with a visit to Posey’s before Joy Opheim picked them all up in small VW.
Tony ran the trail again in 1981 with a group that met at Steve and Linda Meade’s home which was close to the Truck Route and Woodville highway. They were joined by Gino and Donna Glotzbach, Richard Williams, and John Hassebart.
Rex and Mae Cleveland both report running the event in 1982 and doubt that was the first year the run occurred. In 1983 Tony reported the temperatures fell dramatically during the run with the temperatures freezing cold by the end of the run. Most residents lost power and thus heat on Christmas Eve and Day. On the day after Christmas in 1983 Tim Kelly, Gino Glotzbach and Tony traveled to the St. Marks Lighthouse as part of the course preparation for the upcoming 30K run, where they found that the alligator pond and many of the interior ponds covered by a layer of ice. The three of them ventured out on the ice of the pond, where Tim Kelly ventured too far and fell through the ice. “Fortunately the water was shallow and the ice thin and Tim walked out covered with algae, and ice,” Tony reported.
My first year participating was 1984 and I noted in my diary that there are “around 26 people” running the distance from the trail head. Running to Posey’s that year meant running along an abandoned railway bed, sometimes on nearby pavement, sometimes on adjacent dirt road and sometimes through thick sand or mud where railroad tracks once lay. The concept of a paved trail was, at best, a gleam in Joe Beckham’s eyes then. He reports that the old railroad tracks came up in 1983 and the trail was paved in 1987. The gleam in Joe’s eye of a real trail became a reality after a lot of hard by Joe and others in the St. Marks Rails to Trails Association.
The Run to Posey’s has always been a very loosely organized event, but sometime in the late 80’s Mary Jean Yon and Jodi Waldron began organizing water stops and even produced a few flyers to advertise the run. The event took off and now it is not unusual to see nearly 100 faces in Posey’s who have run or biked some part of the trail on Christmas Eve. There is a group start at the trail head near the corner of Capital Circle and South Monroe Street around 7:30 or 8:00 a.m. If you start there and run to Posey’s the distance is around 16 miles. Others will jump in along the way, running whatever distance they may choose. Yet another group is likely to start at Posey’s and run out and back. By late morning though, Posey’s will be packed with sweaty bodies and lots of smiles.
For some graphic remembrances, click below:
· Group gathers at trailhead for run to Posey’s in 2001
· In front of Posey’s, 1999
· Enjoying some well-earned oysters and smoked mullet, 1999
Tallahassee – St. Marks Railroad Historical Chronology
Below is a brief history of the St. Mark’s Trail and how it has been used in the past. There are current plans for extending the trail for more bicycle and pedestrian use.
· 1824 Site of Tallahassee chosen for the Territorial Capital
· 1835 Legislative Council approves Tallahassee Railroad Company
· 1835 Construction begins on the Tallahassee St. Marks Railroad
· 1835 Tallahassee Rail Road Company receives first federal land grant to a railroad
· 1837 Tallahassee-St. Marks railroad begins operation
· 1838 Railroad extended three miles south to Port Leon
· 1843 Port Leon destroyed by hurricane. Railroad terminal moved to St. Marks
· 1856 Wooden rails are replaced by steel rails and mules are replaced by locomotives
· 1861-1865 Railroad used to transport Confederate troops between Tallahassee, Camp Leon, Camp Simkins and St. Marks
· 1880 Railroad used as transportation for naval stores and logging industries
· 1983 Seaboard Railroad files to have railroad abandoned between Capital Circle and St. Marks
· 1984 Florida Department of Transportation purchases abandoned right-of-way
· 1985 Private citizens organize the Tallahassee-St. Marks Rails to Trails Coalition
· 1986 Florida Governor and Cabinet pass resolution to convert right-of-way into Florida’s first rail-trail
· 1987 Legislature appropriates funds for construction and operation of St. Marks Trail
· 1988 Trail dedicated at opening ceremonies in Woodville
· 1989 St. Marks Trail Association incorporated