To Mr. Perkins and every member of the Gulf Winds Track Club:
As most of you know, in a few days I will be leaving Tallahassee behind to begin my college education at Dartmouth College. My mom recently inquired what I would miss most about this town that I have come to love so much. One of my immediate responses was “Gulf Winds, most definitely.”
Over the past few years, I have come to truly adore this club and the people in it. There was never a race that I regretted attending, never a person I wished I hadn’t met. I have gathered many wonderful memories and friends through this club, and I now have an intense love of running that I hope stays with me until I can’t physically move any longer. The mountains of New Hampshire are calling, and I can’t wait to rack up the miles, even if it means trudging through walls of snow.
However, most importantly, I have gotten something from this club that is difficult to put into words. I’m not sure if it’s all the endorphins or the stereotypical “runner personality”, but I have come to associate a certain type of person with GWTC. I have always, from my first club race, gotten a sense of optimism, friendliness, and genuine overall goodness from the people in Gulf Winds. The attitude and atmosphere at many races or club functions is something that GWTC, as a group, should cherish and be deeply proud of.
Let me provide an example. In 2002, I ran the Springtime 10K. I wasn’t in shape to run a 10K well, and I was really slow. Later that year, after getting myself healthier and running a season of cross country for Maclay, I ran the Turkey Trot 10K in about 45 minutes. I remember playing the two finishes over in my head and comparing them: they were almost identical. The cheering of strangers, the support of the finish-line workers… everything was so similar. Sure, after the Turkey Trot, many people came up to me, noting my 20-minute improvement and praising my effort, but the unconditional support and encouragement was the same, whether I was an established high school cross country athlete or a random girl who decided to spontaneously jump into a 10K.
Throughout the rest of my life, I will remember Ray Hanlon, for the amazing all-around person that he is. I will remember Lisa Unger, always friendly, and Mr. Perkins, always sweaty and jolly. I will remember Mr. Yon, always congratulatory on my times, and Judy Alexander, always jumping up and down with enthusiasm and encouragement, a joyous smile always plastered across her face. I will remember John Kalin for his quirkiness, his mini-bike, and the time he literally ran circles around me on a trail run. I will remember Gary, and everything he taught me, ever (which is a lot). There are countless others who have made my life better with their encouragement, compassion, and unconditional kindness.
I thank you, Gulf Winds Track Club, for inspiring me not only to run, but also, more importantly, to be a better person. In truth, discovering this club has been one of the best things that ever happened to me.
With love and sincerity,