Madness on Miller Landing
Approximately 574 runners crossed the finish line for one of three distances on Saturday, August 19. The event known as GWTC’s Miller Landing Madness 8K/5K/3K Cross Country Races was contested in Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park. The three races continue to be a great example of how running cuts across the generations. While there are no limits on which race runners can select, there is competition among middle school aged teams in the 3K, the high school aged teams in the 5K, and adults in the 8K. Some families had competitors in all three races. The courses are tough, both hilly and rugged. And just to make sure they have a real “cross country” feel, there is almost always a nice water hole for runners to cross during the race.
The Powerhouse Team of Bill Lott, Tom Perkins and Jeanne O’Kon direct the event. Long before the sun comes up they are working away, setting up tables, marking some last-minute areas to help runners and cars find their way without mishap, and directing volunteers to their correct stations. The first races start in the center of the park under a series of large oak trees at 8:00 a.m.; it’s a spot without any buildings or electrical outlets. While the official time for sun rise was 7:06 this year, the first rays of light started to make it over the horizon between 6:15 and 6:30. Before that the hum of a generator provides a good clue as to how the spotlight is powered. Headlamps rest atop many of the volunteers’ heads and flashlights work for others. Occasionally, car headlights breakup the darkness of an area, especially when the light discovers a volunteer’s reflective vest. This year an army team of red ants, seemingly unfazed by buy spray, took advantage of the dark to ambush volunteers in the registration area. And somehow before the sun is all the way up, maybe a half dozen tents are up, each serving as “home” for a team.
The 5K and 8K courses are each two laps and, while runners must declare which race they are running, runners from the two races can, like during Turkey Trot, run side by side for more than a mile. The 3K does not start until 9:00, giving parents of the competitors in the middle school races a chance to run their own race and then watch the 3K. The finish line for all three races is the same place – surrounded by giant oaks draped in Spanish moss.
Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park is one of Tallahassee’s most valuable treasures and it is a real hot bed for trail running and racing, including cross country races. Of course, the Pot Luck Bash has been run on this 670-acre tract of land since 1998 or 1999 and Miller Landing Madness’s discovered the beauty of the place in 2008. GWTC also puts on a trail marathon and includes at least one race every year from its trail race series in the park. It is also home to the summer SMIRF running program. Godby High School will host an official cross country meet in the park next week and Chiles High School has mapped out its “home” cross country race for 2017 in the park as well. It is a popular weekend spot for running, hiking and biking.
The public and private high school and middle school teams will start getting into official competition soon. Those who took advantage of the Madness in Phipps Park will have an extra layer of toughness baked into them. They also had a very unique opportunity to share the thrill of running the hills as a family.