Lightning lit up the nearly black skies, and winds gusted at 20-30 mph as approximately 200 runners gathered Saturday evening to warm up for the 2002 version of the Critter Run in Dothan. But somehow, the storm held off and the roads were dry for the start. The front of the pack was off the line in a hurry, as the leaders careened down hills and around corners in the early stages of the race. All the hurrying and careening was short-lived, however, and was replaced by significant gasping and wheezing, as the course turned predominantly uphill from the mile mark onward. Still, it could have been worse, as the cloud cover and intermittent wind gusts kept the temperature bearable. Miraculously, the thunderstorms did not let loose until after the last runners were finished. When the skies finally opened, however, many a cool-down culminated in an all-out strider as runners dashed for the cover of the tennis center, where the awards ceremony was held for the first time.
As usual, Tallahasseans were well represented at the top of their age groups. Perhaps most impressive was Lisa Purul’s second place overall finish. On the morning of the race, she was the locomotive who pulled a bicycle train of Tallahassee triathletes through most of the 100 miles from Tallahassee to Dothan. Kaye Herzog, Felton (Ironman) Wright, and Chuck Davis also completed this tough “double”.
The 55-59 year male age-group proved to be the most unforgiving, as two men broke Tallahassee’s Sam Turnbull’s 13 year-old course record. Jerry Ongley ran a strong 18:18, clipping 15 seconds off the old mark. Bill McGuire, however, was a little stronger at the end, passing Jerry in the final 400 meters to take ten more seconds off Sam’s standard, with an 18:08. The only other age-group record broken was in the male master’s division, as overall winner James Frazier blazed a 16:15 to knock 24 seconds off Gary Jenkins’ 1988 mark.
Another performance of particular note was in the male 15-19 age-group, where Logan Walcott notched a big P.R. with his winning time of 17:38. Logan will be a junior this year at Leon High School. Besides being a really good guy, he has been a loyal track club member and a consistently hard worker in cross country and track since his middle school years. It is very gratifying to see all the hard work paying off for him this year.
The rain persisted long after the awards ceremony, but the “dark and stormy night” did nothing to dampen the spirits of the crowd gathered at the Elks Club for the post-race party. Race director Larry Dykes and the Dothan Runners once again put on a first-class event, although it was a much higher-placed official who provided us with the spectacular light(ning) show we enjoyed on the late-night drive back to Tallahassee.