Fiesta Run – Pensacola, Florida
By Lisa Unger
The Pensacola Runners Association always organizes great races, and the 30th annual Fiesta Run on Saturday, May 1st was no exception. 906 runners and 101 walkers lined up in front of Pensacola Junior College, including 13 from Tallahassee and St. George Island. The morning air was warm and moist with a light mist. The sky threatened rain, but didn’t deliver. Many runners were already damp from the humidity before the race even began, which usually is not a good sign for attempting PR’s.
The heat and humidity could not keep the smiles from the faces though, and there was lots of happy chatter as runners headed for the first mile mark. Several spectators cheered the runners on as they approached the second mile and its challenging hill. Being my fourth attempt at this course I had a good idea of how the second mile can reduce a runner from a 10k goal to a 5k finish. Luckily, the third mile was much more reasonable and did in fact offer a 5k “bail-out” for those who left a little too much on the 2nd mile hill. Not all of the 5k finishers had started out intending to cover the full 10k course. GWTC’s Julie Clark went with the intent of a strong 5k finish, which she accomplished in 20:46 to capture the Female Masters award–just 2 places and only a few seconds shy of a first place finish. Myron Herring also intended to run the 5k and finished well in 21:09. Thirteen year old Gareth Willmott ran his very first 5k along with his step dad, well know GWTC runner, Garth Grumme. Gareth and Garth ran the 5k in 25:30 and 25:32, respectively. Gareth’s mom, Tiani, was very excited to watch her son finish his first race and happened to still be at the 5k finish area with my daughter Lilly as I went past. Boy that 5k finish shoot sure looked tempting and it was very hard to keep running past Lilly, but I knew I would see her at the “other” finish line too, so I kept trudging. Mile 4 was run on a tree lined neighborhood street that provided much appreciated shade, even if it was only for that mile. Mile 5, however, had runners charging along a treeless main roadway aptly known to veteran Fiesta runners as “carbon monoxide alley”. A full lane was closed to traffic and there were several police officers helping with traffic control so runners could feel safe from the vehicles that were just a few feet to their right. The exhaust fumes and the smell of deep frying oils from the fast food places, however, made mile five nearly as challenging as mile 2, plus mile 5 ended with its very own short but steep hill. Ah…mile 6, with its long, sweeping downhill stroll around the town square and a Scottish bagpipe ensemble (complete with kilts) was a welcome relief to hot and tired runners. Knowing the finish line was just around the corner had many runners in front of, and behind me sprinting, and I got caught up in the enthusiasm as well. 10k finishers streamed through a chute that was set up in an area known as Seville Square, where the post race party had already been going strong when I finally arrived.
A live band, plenty of food, adult beverages and soft drinks, and shopping opportunities at a small expo kept runners entertained until the results were announced. GWTC can be proud of its members who captured awards including Julie Clark, who,as previously mentioned, won the female Masters award in the 5k. Tim Unger captured the 10k male Masters award in 35:13, Bill McGuire took the 10k male Grandmasters in 38:06, David Yon (39:37) and Hobson Fulmer (41:47) were first and third in the 45-49 age group and Nick (48:55) and Barbara Yonclas (53:56) both took first place awards in their age groups. Mary Jean Yon proved that it’s heart and soul that matter, not trophies, as she went the distance in 55:15–an improvement of more than 2 minutes over her Rose City run–despite breathing issues that have been bothering her recently. It took me 52:50, but I managed to make my way to my waiting baby and that is what’s important to me. Tim did a great job in coordinating GWTC’s team, including erecting his personal shade canopy again, as well as the GWTC feather flag to provide a great meeting place for all of us. Even though Tim had arranged to include two of the Pensacola runners who have filled empty team slots in the past, and both of them performed exceptionally, our team still finished in 4th place. Mike and Tatsuko Lilly ran 35:33 and 51:11 respectively, which, when added to Tim’s and my times totaled 2:54:47–about 6 1/2 minutes shy of the third place plaque. Oh well, better luck next year, at least we all enjoyed another “Rave Run” at the Fiesta 5k/10k hosted by the PRA.