Gate to Gate 4.4 Miles
Eglin Air Force Base, Pensacola, FL
By Lisa Unger
Memorial Day can be a very solemn day for Americans as we remember those who have given their lives for this country to protect our freedom. At this time, while our country is currently at war, and American soldiers are again losing their lives in the name of freedom, Memorial Day became all the more poignant. One way to express our gratitude to those who have died, and also to those who are currently serving in Armed Services is to participate in the 96th Services Gate to Gate 4.4 mile run held on Eglin Air Force Base. About 28 people from Tallahassee and the surrounding areas made the trip across the Florida panhandle to join more than 1400 other like minded people in the 19th annual running of the Gate to Gate. The National Anthem was sung, colors were presented by a color guard and a prayer was led by the Base Commander while runners paused at the start line with red, white and blue carnations in their hands, ready to be dropped at a memorial statue which stands just before the first mile.
Several Tallahassee runners were in the front of starting pack, including Tim Unger, Caleb Carmichael, Zach Galloway, Justin Dickieson and Sarah Docter Williams. Several others waited in the middle of the pack; while Nadine Dexter and I, with Lilly in her jogger, moved so far back that we could not even see the start line. We could hear the starting gun, though, and when it sounded, we began to shuffle forward in a throng of humidity dampened runners and joggers. For safety reasons, Lilly and I had to move to the far left so that the wheels of her jogger would not clip the heels of runners in front of us, and so we lost sight of Nadine for awhile. When we approached the memorial where runners were laying their flowers and a single bagpipe played a mournful song, we were too far away to make our way over and so Lilly ended up clutching her carnation through the whole race. We were able to find Nadine again, though, and managed to stay within sight of her for the rest of the course. Along the way Nadine, Lilly and I exchanged pleasantries with many other runners. As we approached the end of the third mile we saw former Tallahassee resident and GWTC member Mara Fair. We were very excited to learn that just five weeks earlier Mara had a little girl who she named Mia. As we huffed and puffed our congratulations to Mara, we heard from several other ladies around us who also recently had babies. Nadine commented about how impressed she was that there were so many new mothers out running the Gate to Gate event. Before we knew it, we were rounding the corner and heading in to the finish line. There is always mass confusion at the end of a race and the day’s heat and humidity caused many runners to require medical attention, so Nadine’s first concern was reuniting with her family members. We were glad to learn that Joe, James and Chris Dexter all made it in safely and were pleased with their times. Lilly and I also located the rest of our travel group and after a refreshing pass through the shower that was set up in the parking lot and a change into a dry t-shirt (and a fresh diaper for the little one!) we were ready to join the post race party.
Several of us enjoyed dancing to the sounds of Jones and Co, the band that usually plays at this event. Lilly even learned a new dance step by watching a young lady who joined us, and then the rest of us all started doing “the Lilly”. I think it will be the next new dance craze to sweep the nation! We all enjoyed the Subway sandwiches and hot wings, and of course, the beer, while waiting for the results to be announced. The Tallahassee overall award winners were: Tim Unger, 3rd Masters (24:36); Sarah Docter Williams, 2nd Overall (26:21) and Bill McGuire, Grandmasters (26:52). Age group award winners were: Caleb Carmichael, 1st (23:58); Zach Galloway, 4th (25:52); Justin Dickieson, 2nd (26:14); Greg Waddell, 3rd (27:18); James Dexter, 5th (28:15); Hobson Fulmer, 5th (29:21); Jerry Ongley, 2nd (30:05); Lisa Whitworth, 2nd (31:16), Joe Dexter, 5th (32:51) and Danielle Jackman, 3rd (38:53). We also learned that for the first time since 1998, GWTC had won the open team competition. The scoring GWTC runners were Tim, Sarah, Justin and Zach with a combined time of 1:43:03, almost 2 minutes ahead of the defending champions, NWFTC. 2004 was the 8th Gate to Gate in a row that GWTC scored a top 3 position in the team competition. This team competition proved once again that “Girls Rule!” as Sarah’s time was the winning factor, being more than 4 minute better than NWFTC’s girl.
After the post race party many of us reconvened at Post’l Point for the 2nd Annual GWTC/NWFTC post-post race party. Tim Unger was the grill master and served up a variety of piping hot sausage dogs with all the fixin’s. Meanwhile, Hobson shucked oyster after oyster to keep the crowd happy between dogs. Many people enjoyed swimming in the bay and relaxing with friends. The race, the post race party and second post race all combined to make the 2004 Gate to Gate a Rave Run.