By Bill McGuire
Most runners, including GWTC members, know Jeff Galloway as the best selling author of “Galloway’s Book on Running” and “Marathon!”, or as a monthly columnist for “Runner’s World”. But a few of us track club old-timers remember Jeff from when he lived in Tallahassee back in the 1970’s. In those days, Jeff was a recent (1972) Olympic team member, the founder of the local “Phidippides” running store, and the major force behind establishing a community running group, the Gulf Winds Track Club.
Although Jeff was an international class athlete, his vision for a track club in Tallahassee had nothing to do with high-powered competition. Nor was he trying to create a clone of the Florida Track Club, of which he and several other Olympic caliber runners were members. Jeff was conducting fitness classes under the auspices of F.S.U.’s Center for Participant Education at the time, and his idea for a track club in Tallahassee grew out of his students’ desire to continue running after the classes had finished.
Many of the events that Jeff promoted in the earliest days of the track club reflected his preference for fitness and fun over “straight ahead” competition. One track meet featured an array of running and field events for couples only, with the male and female scores combined to determine place. Another meet included an exhibition “somersault” long jump by gymnast Ron Galimore. A favorite event of Jeff’s was the “prediction” mile, and he often put it on the program along with a more typical race such as a 5k. There were no watches allowed, no splits called, and the winner was the person who came closest to the time they predicted before the run. Jeff himself possesses an excellent sense of pace, and it has served him and others well. He spent the early stages of the ’72 Olympic Trials 10k in last place, gradually working his way up as others slowed, and eventually finishing 2nd to Frank Shorter to qualify for the Munich Games. But Jeff counts his greatest racing experience as the Olympic Marathon Trials that same year, in which he helped his teammate and good friend, Jack Bacheler, make the Munich team by pacing him to a pre-ordained time and a 3rd place finish.
Jeff was also GWTC’s original trail-meister. He trained almost exclusively off-road, and prided himself on being able to run from F.S.U. to his beloved trails in the Apalachicola National Forest while barely touching pavement the entire way. When Jeff got the idea to organize Tallahassee’s first marathon, he wanted its defining characteristic to be that it was held entirely on forest trails. And so it was: in 1975, the Phidippides Forest Marathon was staged at Natural Bridge Monument in Woodville, with nary a stride on pavement. Incidentally, Jeff was thrilled when he got the opportunity to run on the Miccosukee Greenway for the first time last year, and was amazed at how far Tallahassee has come in its development of local trials for running, cycling, etc.
It is appropriate that Jeff is finally getting to run the Springtime 10k. As far back as 1974, he was promoting the idea of a road race that would start and finish downtown, preferably near the state capitol, with the governor presenting the winning trophies. (Governor Askew actually did present the overall winning trophies to George West and Laura Ledbetter on the steps of Lewis State Bank in 1978.) He felt that this type of event would give Tallahassee running the legitimacy it deserved. Jeff moved to Atlanta before his dream was realized, but others, like Andy Burns and Dr. Jim Penrod were inspired by Jeff’s vision, and their efforts eventually brought his idea to fruition.
I hope that as many people as possible come to Premier Fitness for “An Evening with Jeff Galloway” on April 5th, the evening before the Springtime 10k. Not only will you receive the benefit of Jeff’s vast running knowledge and experience, but I think you’ll be impressed with his enthusiasm, his sincerity, his sense of humor, and his deep belief in running as an integral part of a healthy and happy life style. You’ll also get a chance to meet the guy who started it all for Gulf Winds Track Club, and I think you will come away prouder than ever to be a part of it.
Photos by John Kalin: Jeff Galloway and Family Visit GWTC