It is a long run…

David Yon, December 5, 2009

They are two races that represent the extremes of running. On Saturday, December 12, Gulf Winds Track Club will host the 29th Tallahassee Ultra Distance Classic at Wakulla Springs State Park. It will be an entirely different atmosphere than the Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot.

Within a period of 17 days, Gulf Winds Track Club will have provided a diverse offering of races that cater to the full spectrum of runners who participate in the sport. It started Thanksgiving morning with a one mile fun run/walk at Turkey Trot, continued with the more challenging 5, 10 and 15K runs that drew record numbers and continues today with the 10 – Mile Challenge on a tough hilly course in Killearn Lakes. On Saturday the 12th, approximately 75 runners (the biggest crowd since 1986) from 12 different states will gather in Wakulla Springs State Park to toe the line and run either 50 kilometers (31 miles) or 50 miles on a loop course of just over 2 miles. Many more runners and volunteers will show up to make sure the 75 have a lot of support and to assure that Gary and Peg Griffin, the race directors, have the resources necessary to do their usual great job of organizing the event. Staging an event like the Ultra is a true labor of love, not done with the idea of appealing to great masses, but rather for the love of a particular aspect of the sport – ultra distance running. Of course by now you should know no one better reflects that love than Gary and Peg Griffin. This highly respected event is a great demonstration of the quality of the support in the local running community for all aspects of the sport of running.

This year’s Ultra race will honor Pat Judd, a dedicated ultra runner who will be making his 23rd start in the Tallahassee Ultra Distance Classic. Earlier this year it appeared number 22 was going to be his last. A teacher at A.K. Suter Elementary School in Pensacola where he has been recognized as “teacher of the year,” he also served as a crossing guard in the morning looking after the children’s safety. The job normally is not that exciting and is mostly a great chance to greet the children as they arrive in the morning. But last spring, it became far more than that. As a group of kids began crossing the road, Judd noticed a van approaching the intersection at an excessive speed. It quickly became apparent that the van was not going to heed his admonition to slow down. In fact, Judd recognized the van was not even going to obey the stop sign. Reacting instinctively he shoved the kids out of the intersection and the path of the oncoming van. Unfortunately, his actions put him directly in the path of the van. While he did manage to get most of his body out of the way, the vehicle crushed his fibula splintering bones and tendons. He spent months going in and out of hospitals and enduring numerous surgeries wondering if he would ever be able to walk on the leg again, let alone get back to running, which is his intense past time. Slowly and steadily he came back until just a few months ago he began walking on it. He has run only one race, the Pine Run on October 3rd, since the accident. But he is ready to go on December 12th in an event he dearly loves.

Gary Griffin’s Noteworthy projected starters:

Gordy Hawkins, Madiera Beach, FL – 25th start

Pat Judd, Pensacola, FL – 23rd start

Bill Hillison, making his 17th start; between 1992 and 2004, an 8-time winner of the 50K, seeking to break the 65-69 50K Age Group record this year

Dann Fisher, 48, from Manhattan, KS, Defending Champion

Ann Burke, 47, St Petersburg, FL, Defending Champ

Michael Arnstein, 32, NY, NY; finished 2nd overall  at this year’s JFK 50M – America’s largest ultramarathon with over 1,000 runners, with a time of 5:50:58

Frank Bozanich, 65, Reno, NV; the 50M course record holder (5:14:40) set in 1982 who is vying for a national 65-69 50M Age Group record

Amy Costa, 45, Jacksonville, FL; women’s 50M champion at the TUDC in 2006-2007; ran the 7th fastest 100M time in the world by a female in 2008 (17:46) at the Iron Horse 100

Vince Molosky, top local 50M finisher (3rd) in 2008 and the winner of the 2008/2009 Torreya State Park 50K

Joe Burgasser, 71, St Petersburg, FL; set a pending US 70-74 AgeGroup record of 4:22:04 at the 2008 TUDC 50K, as well as pending US bests at 10K, 12K and 15K in the past 18 months.

Jane Johnson, 50, Tallahassee, FL; winner of the TUDC 50K in 1998 and still one of America’s premier female masters endurance runners