Annual Gulf Winds Track Club RacesDavid Yon, revised February 17, 2019
It is truly an amazing production. But then, the race directors and volunteers of GWTC are an amazing group of people. Remember, we are talking about a volunteer organization. The club has no paid employees. Perhaps, one day that will change. In the meantime, if you want to race, run or walk, GWTC has something you will like. Even the categories are so numerous they are hard to list. The somewhat nutty folks at GWTC direct a Summer Trail Race Series (4 single-track trail races), a Summer Track Series (8 weekly track meets at Maclay School) and an Annual Club Race Series that consists of 18 race events, from 1 to 50 miles on all kinds of surfaces. For the most current details, visit the GWTC race calendar. Try running them all. If you do, Mark Tombrink will present you with a very nice award.
Swamp Forest Trail Half and Quarter Marathon – Date: January. Location: Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park. The brain child of Bobby York, this event winds through both single-track and multi-use trails in Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park, including the Swamp Forest, Coon Bottom, and Oak Hammock Loops. Jim and Kristin Halley studied under Bobby and then took the director reigns in 2017 and 2018, and did a great job. Bobby returned as race director in January 2019 and brought a 50K with him. Stay tuned, but as of right now this year will not include a marathon or an ultra.
Bowlegs Run for Scholarship 5K & 1 Mile Walk – Date: January. Location: FSU/FAMU Engineering Building, Innovation Park. Bill Hillison and Larry Giunipero direct this well-run race to benefit the FSU Faculty and Friends Scholarship Fund. The race became a club race in 2002, but has been around since Leitch Wright and Larry directed the first one in 1985. The race that year started and finished near Tully Gym and Mike Long Track. Since 1994, the scholarship program has awarded more than 144 scholarships for students, averaging about $500 per award. The course is virtually traffic free as it winds its way through Innovation Park. It climbs a couple of hills, but nice long downhills give runners a chance to start the year with a good 5K time.
GWTC 30K & 15K – January; Location: Old Centerville Road. Old Centerville Road makes this race a very special event. After 12 years of directing the 30K, race directors Jerry and Jackie McDaniel announced 2016 decided to pass the baton after 2016. Among other great things they moved the race to the red clay hills of Old Centerville Road where it has been a big success. They also added a 15K in 2006. New directors, Zach Deveau and Jillian Heddaeus, have been at the helm since. The race begins in front of the Retreat at Bradley’s Pond which, in exchange for a little rent money, opens its doors for registration, awards, beans and rice and warmth. Just after the 2 mile mark, the paved road gives way to red clay and sand, hard-packed when it is dry and muddy and slippery when it is wet. The red clay and rolling hills are a special place to run with spectacular giant oaks protecting much of the course. The course however reserves a special kind of pain for those turning left on Sunny Hills Road to climb the giant hills. Once known as the “Ides of March,” the race was first run in March of 1978 under the direction of Tim Simpkins, who also won the inaugural race. The 15K was added in 2006. The race’s home was the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge for many years.
Date: February. Location: Start: On Monroe Street in front of the courthouse under the giant moss-covered oak tree. Finish in College Town, next to Madison Social.
The Tallahassee Marathon has been a constant force here since March 8, 1975 when it started with humble beginnings and two runners on Natural Bridge Road. Since then, it has started at Silver Lake, Campbell Stadium, Killearn Estates, Wacissa Springs, Tallahassee Nursery and the FSU Track. It has been flat and it has been hilly. But it has always been carefully tended to with great volunteers and quality race directors. The Tallahassee Half Marathon was first run on February 11, 1984 One hundred and forty nine runners finished the first Tallahassee Half Marathon. That number has grown since with a high reaching 941 in 2016.
Prior to Jay Silvanima’s debut as race director in 2007, the highest number of marathon finishers was 129 in 2005. Jay believed the marathon could grow however and he set to work making that happen. Over the next few years, he enlisted Nancy Stedman to help him (and be his wife) and together they grew the marathon to its largest number of marathon finishers (359) in 2014 and three years in a row with over 300 finishers. The marathon made extensive use of the paved bicycle trail to St. Marks during these years and started and finished at or on the FSU Track, running along side Doak Campbell football stadium. Jay and Nancy also pushed the half marathon to new heights, crossing the 600 number in 2011 and reaching a high of 728 in 2013.
After Jay and Nancy decided to step down, Jon Manry and Eric Godin stepped up to direct the 2016 edition. They decided it was time to bring the race downtown and create maximum exposure for Tallahassee. A brand-new course fulfilled their goal of showing off all of Tallahassee, including its “rolling hills.” Before the marathon rolled around however, Jon had to step down as director. Elizabeth Rosario stepped up and generated an enormous amount of excitement for the marathon.
The crowds and the excitement in 2016 were great, but the course was really tough. The half set a record for participation, while the full dropped perhaps because of those hills. 2017 was Ely’s solo show as director, although she had a great crew helping. Some of the hills were eliminated from the race to make it faster. The half grew again, but the full dropped again. The race set a record for fund raising. Ely stepped down as director after 2017.
Sheryl Rosen took charge in 2018, working with an experienced race committee. Course changes replaced some tough hills with flat terrain making the races faster again. That good news was offset by the promise of strong storms blowing through race morning. And while the hard rain did wait for most of the half runners to finish, it did hit pretty hard while a lot of runners and volunteers we still on the course. As many as 30 marathon entrants decide to scale back to the half primarily because of the weather. One hundred and fifty-three hearty souls stuck it out though and finished the marathon. Seven hundred enjoyed the half marathon. Many of them listened to the marching chiefs from FSU play music to help them up the final hill. 2019 became the year of Meb as we had the good fortune of having Meb Keflesighi as our special guest.
The event is now directed by committee. Additional information is available at https://wwwtallahasseemarathon.com.
Date: February. Location: San Marcos de Apalache State Park, St. Marks. An ecstatic Keith Rowe had finally reached a point on Saturday, February 16, 2019 where he could stop worrying about the details of the Flash 12K and 6K races and instead enjoy the setting for the post-race celebration at Cooter Stew Café in St. Marks. The big smile on his face told everyone how he thought the morning had gone. The turnout, just short of 300, was good. Keith’s second time at directing these races was, in fact, a resounding success.
Mark Priddy, Keith’s predecessor, was there to help assure continuity in an event that was first run in 1989. Joe Dexter, the first race director and creator of the event says the idea of putting on a 12K race came to him while reading about two of the largest races in the United States – Bay to Breakers in San Francisco and the Bloomsday Run in Spokane. Shocked that a 12K could be such a large race, Joe decided to introduce Tallahassee to the idea.
Mark’s seven years as race director began in 2011 and ended in 2017 but he left a strong foundation for his successor. It was, in fact, Mark who moved the race from J Lewis Hall Park in Woodville to the confluence of the St. Marks and Wakulla Rivers near the San Marcos de Apalache State Park. The courses run through a St. Marks neighborhood for about 2 miles before jumping on the St. Marks Rails to Trails path and heading north. Each race turns around on the trail at their respective turn around points and retrace the same routes to return to the start (and finish) line.
The distances of 12K and 6K are unique as far as the local race scene goes. (Not entirely unique of course as the December race at the ARP, the Tannenbaum, is a 6K cross country race.) Add to that the opportunity for a fun post-race social in the coastal town of St. Marks at Cooter Stew Café, and you have a fun event that continues growing.
Date: Late March/Early April Location: Cascades Park. This is GWTC’s downtown springtime event, and you should never miss it. The hills and the community feeling along the race course in Myers Park will assure that you have wonderful stories to tell about this race. The post-race party gives everyone a chance to say hello to folks they have not seen in a while. Currently directed by Jerry and Jackie McDaniel, the race was first run in 1976 as a 4-mile race under the direction of Andy Burns, and became a 10K race the very next year. The 5K was added in 2008. Check out the race web page at https://springtime10k.com.
Date: April. Location: Messer Field (start) to the Palace Saloon (finish). One of GWTC’s longest running races, the Palace Saloon 5K was first run in 1975 and has kept a reputation of being a fast and fun event ever since. Tom Perkins, who has a lot of good experience directing various races, directs the race. The 2018 number of finishers dropped below 1000 for the first time in a number of years and stayed there with 864 finishers in 2019, still a big crowd. The 2000 race was canceled by COVID-19 while the 2021 race was postponed to October 2021. The Palace Saloon 5K is traditionally one of the fastest 5K fields in town in addition to one of the largest. 2019 made the claim of fast credible again as two runners finished in 14:39 and one in 15:05.
The 2016 edition was the State RRCA 5K Championship. Mike Burns made his mark on the Palace Saloon 5K after taking over as race director in 2013. The race exceeded 1300 finishers his first three years, including a record 1389 in 2013. With a big crowd and a great celebration at the end, this race is a lot of fun – well, other than the uphill from just past the 2-mile mark to 2.5 miles or so. You have to love that long downhill finish though and it’s a great way to follow the Springtime 10K.
Great Potluck Bash 4-Mile Run. Date: Early June . Location: Forest Meadows Park & Athletic Center (4750 N Meridian Rd). GWTC prides itself in supporting youth running through the Chenoweth Endowment Fund. This event recognizes the outstanding high school track-and-field and cross-country athletes in the Big Bend area with scholarship awards. You cannot wear a watch during this prediction run and you can’t beat the low-country boil and pot luck dinner after the race. This off-road race was first held in 1998 and is under the direction of the Chenoweth Committee: Doug Bell, Myrna Hoover, Mary Register and David Yon. The trails of the Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park are beautiful, and the perfect place to hold this race. The Chenoweth Endowment Fund has awarded more than $157,173.65 in scholarships to approximately 250 recipients.
Breakfast on the Track Mile. Date: August. Location: Maclay School Track. Talk about marathons being tough races if you want, but a well-run mile on the track requires as much courage and toughness as any marathon. But it is also fun and the hard part is over in minutes. Runners are seeded into 12-14 heats of 15-20 runners based on their projected finish times. And if t hat isn’t enough, find three teammates and run a 4X400 meter relay race. Felton and Bonnie Wright have put on a great show each year as race directors, including serving pancakes for breakfast. The first year for this race was 1998 (Jamie was 4), and the Wrights have directed every race.
Miller Landing Madness Date: August.. Location: Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park. This event, which includes an 8K, a 5K and a 3K race, has become the kickoff for the high school and middle school cross-country seasons and the signal for GWTC members to start racing again after a summer hiatus. The event has been held in the gorgeous Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park behind Forest Meadows since 2008. The race is a great chance for GWTC members and local high-school runners to mix it up together. Before finding a home in Phipps Park, the event was held on the Miccosukee Greenway (2004-2007), when it was known as the Miccosukee Madness. Jeanne O’Kon, Tom Perkins and Bill Lott have teamed up as race directors to create a great event that gives you a real taste of the Park. The race began as a 5-mile event called the Tom Brown Bash in 1977 under the direction of Lee Cohee. (Yes, it ran through Tom Brown Park until 2003.)
Run for Sickle Cell Anemia 5K & Tim Simpkins 1 Mile Date: September. Location: Jake Gaither Community Center. In 2017, GWTC and the Sickle Cell Foundation joined forces to take the Sickle Cell 5K and and 1 mile run and walk to a new level. The course has always been fast, but co-race director and GWTC past president Paul Guyas came up with a redesign that not only made it faster but also made it safer. The volunteers for this race have historically been great. The Sickle Cell 5K has been around for more than 35 years and most of us have some great memories of running through the Jake Gaither neighborhood, but its best days hopefully are still to come. Co directors Jeff Rollins and Paul Guyas — with help from Velma Stevens, Chris Wells, Dante’ D. Fillyau and David Yon — have worked to lay the foundation for big things in the future. Proceeds from the race go to help families dealing with Sickle Cell Anemia. In 2018, over 300 participants finished the 5K Run (171), 5K walk (90) and the Tim Simpkins Mile (42).
Women’s Distance Festival 5K/1 Mile Date: September. Location: Optimist Park 1800 E Indian Head Drive. Lisa Unger is the director of this quality event that celebrates women in sports. The women often outnumber and outrun the men in this race through Indian Head Acres. The course is rolling, but it is nice and the finish has a long down hill to reward the runners. It has a unique twist in that the women start five minutes before the men. The 2012 women’s winner ran 17:05.88 (the women’s course record). Kayleigh Tyerman apparently did not think that was fast enough and in 2013, she ran with the men and smashed the 17:00 mark finishing in 16:51. The race began with Dot Skofronick and Shirley Bull as race directors in 1982.
Salute to Steve Prefontaine 5K. Date: September. Location: Silver Lake Recreation Area. Like the runner this event is named for, the course is always challenging. The course has traversed a number of different trails through the Apalachicola National Forest around the Silver Lake Recreation Area, but they all seem to find more sand than a runner would like and usually a hill worth cursing. The race is now testing out the trails at Wallwood Boy Scout Reservation in a beautiful forest near Lake Talquin. Dave Rogers birthed this event on September 25, 1976, shortly after the legendary Steve Prefontaine died. Dave was known for his colorful race starts (shooting an apple off of Carmen’s (his wife) head and one year adding a 20k/10K Midnight Moonlight Run through the forest, marking the trail with candles in bags of sand. Mike Eakin and Jeff Doherty followed as directors. Jeff Nielsen, Race Director for 13 years, always brought his own mark to this race by finding an extra log and a bit of sand for the course and a “push up” contest after the race to keep “smiles” on the runners’ faces. The race is currently under the direction of Allen Blay.
Pine Run 20K. Date: October. Location: Tall Timbers Research Station. (13093 Henry Beadel Dr.) The Pine Run offers a unique opportunity to run through the forests and trails of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy. The Tall Timbers Research Station & Land Conservancy organization is dedicated to preserving the distinctive, rural landscape of South Georgia and North Florida and its traditional land uses not just in Tall Timbers, but by developing good land conservation practices that all can use. The course through this beautiful property is tough. Gary and Peg turned over the directorship in 2021 to Carter and Jennifer Hay, perfect directors for this race. Hurricane Michael left its mark on the property in 2018, causing the race to be canceled that year.
From 1977-2006, the South Georgia experimental forest known as Southlands and located just outside of Bainbridge, Georgia was home for this race. The race moved to Tall Timbers when the Southlands property was put up for sale.
The Rex Cleveland Magic! Mile: This race was retired after the 2022 edition. Location: Start Near Myers Park, End on Cascades Trail near Proof Brewery. Rex is too important to forget and can you think of a better way to kick off Turkey Trot celebrations than with a fast, downhill mile that finishers in Rail Road Square?
Turkey Trot 1M/15K/10K/5K. Date: Thanksgiving Day. Location: State Office Complex in SouthWood. Thanksgiving is a great day for running and this race gives you as many course choices as dinner gives you food choices. It is family friendly, community friendly and a chance to have a little fun. Over the past few years, the race has from 5,000 to 6,000 runners. It is GWTC’s largest race and has become an essential family meeting place for area runners and walkers on Thanksgiving Day. It has been around since 1976, and race directors David and Mary Jean Yon do their best to give you a caring way to burn calories before Thanksgiving dinner. Thank goodness for great volunteers. In 2009, we offered runners a chance to become Turkey Trot Heroes – runners who gave a little extra to the great causes the race supports – and that program continues to grow.
Tallahassee 10 and 5 Mile Challenge. Date: December. Location: Hawks Rise Elementary School (use parking lot entrance off of Meridian Road). For many years this race was an annual event in Killearn Lakes on a tough out and back route along Deer Lake. For safety reasons, Reid Vannoy moved the race from Killearn Lakes to Ox Bottom Manor. The start is at Hawks Rise Elementary School, but the current course certainly preserves the tradition of being a “Challenge” with a few hills that will sap a runner’s strength. The 5-mile race gives those not wanting to go 10 miles an option. In fact, in 2019 the 5 mile run will be grand prix. Vicky Verano and Ana Sutherland will be directing the races for the 5th time.
The race began as a 20K in 1977 under the direction of Leitch Wright and became a 10-mile run in 1988. The 5 mile event was added in 2004. The event is currently under the directorship of Mark Tombrink.
Tallahassee Ultra Distance Classic. Date: December. Location: Wakulla Springs State Park. This day of racing at Wakulla Springs will again include the 50K, 50 mile and marathon distances on a USATF certified 10K loop course. The race starts on the beautiful grounds of Wakulla Springs State Park and leaves the park ground each lap to run a section along Highway 61, Wakulla Springs Road. The event was first run in 1980 and was directed by a committee of volunteers. Don’t let the distances scare you; this is a very doable event and a great experience! The web page with more detail is www.tallahasseeultra.com/.
Tannenbaum 6K. Date: December. Location: Apalachee Regional Park. Herb Wills and Brian Corbin teamed up to create a brand new GWTC race in 2011. This race showcases “one of the finest cross-country courses in the Southeast.” GWTC joined forces with Florida State University and Leon County to help plan and create this great venue. Since 2013 Herb Wills took sole possession of the title “Race Director” and made sure GWTC got to put on a race at the ARP every year. It is an outstanding venue for racing and a great way to wrap up a racing year.