By David Yon
There is something special about this event, with its slogan “Hill Climbing 101.” It does not promise you an easy ride. As the hills signal – there is nothing easy about this production. Not running it, not directing it. But maybe, somehow, that difficulty makes the rewards for this event something extra special. Maybe those who dare take this challenge come away with something more than a fast time.
Yes, it is tough on the race directors, but you would never know it watching a beaming Gary Griffin’s face when he saw Felton Wright and Ronnie Godwin raise each other’s hand as they crossed the finish line together in first place. “It is just great to see the local talent win this marathon,” Gary said. Carrie Weyant kept the home brew bubbling when she won her second straight (and third total) Tallahassee marathon. After a couple hours to reflect Felton summed it up best:
“I would like to thank Peg and Gary Griffin for an excellent job with today’s Marathon and Half marathon. From a runner’s perspective there were volunteers on every one of the 5,432 marked turns in the course. (Some of them were there a very long time.) Aid stations every 2 miles were greatly appreciated! Police protection was everywhere it needed to be. True, Boston and New York may have more participants but it is exciting to participate in an event and see such good friends everywhere one turns during the race. Thank you Peg, Gary, and all the volunteers that put so much time into this event.”
Felton was right on by starting the thanks at the top. The tough hills that must be overcome in this marathon begin with figuring out how to orchestrate one massive, complicated production. And you must do this without a big budget sponsor, while somehow finding a way to keep the finances in the black. You have to round up lots of volunteers to help. And, finally, somehow you have to make people feel good about climbing several 14,000 foot peaks.
Well, a great way to do this is to start with Gary and Peg Griffin. Then you add well over 100 terrific, smiling volunteers. Now, for most folks, finding that many people to help might be hard, but for Peg and Gary, that probably represents only half the number that they have done some act of kindness for in the last 30 days or so. George Palmer gets to job of rounding them all up and making sure they are in the right place and he does it without a hitch and always with a smile.
The mile markers bear wonderful greetings from supporters who want to be a part of this event. The supporters donate $50 a marker that is a key part of making this event a success, while Tallahassee Nurseries provides a wonderful staging venue. There are water tables manned by folks that just won’t let you quit or get down.
There are special memories associated with this event. It has a long history (dating back to 1975), but this year’s event captured the essence of two special participants with its shirt. A runner in a camouflage outfit and another in a Superman costume are pictured crossing the finish line together, bringing back memories of Craig Hasty and Tim Simpkins. Tim’s brother Johnny took one of those shirts home after running the half.
On this day, though, the marathon belonged to Ronnie Godwin and Felton Wright as they finished in 3:02:32 while running together the entire way. They maintained a pace just below the seven minute mark for almost every mile except those with peaks above the 14,000 foot altitude level. Carrie Weyant seemed locked in second place and just about out of gas when she found some extra inner strength and rallied to win in 3:12:17 – a new course record. Paul Ahnberg, running his first marathon, took the master’s title in the marathon in 3:14:10, while second place finisher Kathy Roche won the women’s marathon masters title in 3:24:11.
Art Remillard returned to the racing scene in a big way, taking the half by almost three minutes while finishing in 1:17:31 for another course record. Lisa Whitworth took the women’s title with a time of 1:33:03. Tim Unger took second and first master with a time of 1:20:22, while Judy Chin claimed the women masters title with a time of 1:40:42.
To assure it was really a great day, Peg and Gary delivered a beautiful morning with temperature in the high 40’s at the start of the race. The cool air just seemed to hang around to make sure that this day was one for celebrating successful hill climbing. And so you see, those lessons in “Hill Climbing 101” aren’t always so bad!