MAY CAT BIRD SEAT
By David Yon
So, when will I learn to stop answering my phone. “Hi, this is Gerald Ensley. Are you the President of GWTC?”, he asked. “Depends, I said. Why?” After a couple of halting starts, he said: “I will just lay it out on the table – what does GWTC think of the Andrew Jackson controversy?” “What do you mean, I asked?”, as if a dumb question alone might just make the whole issue disappear. “Don’t you guys put on the 10K race for Springtime Tallahassee?” Well, not exactly. You see the 10K is a separate event from Springtime Tallahassee. A few years ago there was a lot of controversy about it. Rocks were thrown, buildings burned and running was almost banned anywhere downtown on the day of Springtime. Eventually a peace accord was reached when the race name was modified to avoid any additional problems. Counter revolutionists such as Tim Kelly had their visas to visit Tallahassee permanently revoked and were exiled to other countries such as Colorado. (Note – I believe he has since escaped to Las Vegas.)
Nevertheless, Gerald had raised a good question. In case you are not familiar with the issue, a number of people think Andrew Jackson was a drunken, racist, murderous thug who (while qualified to be President of the United States) should be despised rather than allowed to lead a parade. The other camp thinks he was quite clever for keeping the Brits out of New Orleans, a great representative of the common man and a damn good mug shot for a twenty dollar bill. The first group thinks he should stay away from Springtime, the second thinks anyone good enough to be President is fine for leading a parade. Or maybe they just think that because he has been there so long, he has earned the right to keep marching. As far as I know, he never actually lived in Tallahassee or lit fire to any building here.
We (GWTC) bring around 1,000 runners plus a bunch of their family members downtown the morning of Springtime. Most of them stick around after the race and join in the festivities. Does that create some type of moral obligation for the club to take a stand on this issue? First let me give you my personal view of the Jackson controversy so that you know where my biases lie. It has been a long time since I took American History, so my facts about Andy are rather sketchy – but I am not sure that is the point anyway. I enjoy Springtime Tallahassee because it brings people together and helps create a sense of community. People wander around downtown aimlessly with very little sense of purpose other than just to celebrate the weather and our community and to say hello to a few people they don’t see very often. So, it seems real simple to me. If a significant number of people are offended by a major symbol of such a festival, change it. Especially if the symbol is something as insignificant – sorry Andy – and unrelated to Tallahassee as Andrew Jackson.
But what does a running club have to say about it? Well he (Jackson) certainly is not our mascot. Only Jeff Nielsen can fill that role and since Andy could not keep up with Jeff even until the corner of Monroe and Call – I can’t see where he ever will be our mascot. I suspect if you polled the members you would find people with personal opinions on both sides of the issue, but I also suspect the overwhelming answer you would get is that an event like the 10K is just not the time or place to fight those kinds of issues. Running is about being able to set aside all of those kinds of issues and the stress we live under in this modern world. It is about being able to line up all of the elements in ones being and focusing on getting them from point A to B. Sure we some times wonder about how fast we can make the trip and even whether we can get there before someone else. We work through the days problems in our heads and with our friends when we share the roads. We find ways to heal wounds and build inner strength while we run. It is above all a time to bring the soul and the body together. Hopefully this in the end enables us to make better judgments about the world and helps build the kind of character and strength necessary to see those judgments through. However, to mix this great passion with politics and protest almost defeats the essence of what the sport is about.
Running is probably the most international sport of all. Almost anywhere in the world you travel people can and do put on a pair of shoes and shorts and head out the door. Every continent in the world has produced a great track and field champion at one time or another. (Ok, maybe not Antarctica – but even that continent hosts its own marathon.) Only a fool would say politics do not get involved with the sport on a regular basis – remember the Olympic boycotts by the US and Russia, the ban of South Africa for so many years, Jock Simple tackling Katherine Switzer and the terrorists acts of Munich to name a few. As recently as this year Morocco denied entry visas to Israeli athletes at the World Cross Country Championships. But the heart and beauty of the sport is the fact that Kenyans race Australians and American Indians win gold medals. Great champions come from Ethiopia, Germany and the United States. And just as importantly, across the world 55,000 will join an international field of elites in Atlanta on the 4th of July for Peachtree, more than 20,000 will be in London for a marathon in April, and tens of thousands will complete the Comrades marathon in South Africa in June and on and on. And hopefully next year 1,000 plus will line up on Monroe Street again with their own individual challenges and goals. And regardless of what the organizers of Springtime Tallahassee say, Andrew Jackson will not be there.
Breeda Dennehy’s time of 34:09 and 5th place overall finish at Springtime was a terrific performance and shows she is on the way back to Olympic form. Tallahassee has been the home of some terrific women runners over the years, but I was not able to find a faster Springtime time or a higher place by a woman. My limited research went back to 1985. I am certain Bill McGuire or our Newsletter editor has the answer to has run the fastest race. In looking back, I did see where Larry Greene covered the (more difficult) course in 30:03 in 1984.
Brett Pace gave a terrific lecture last month as part of the GWTC lecture series. You are missing something if you do not attend these lectures. Our speakers have been quite good and willing to answer questions as long as people stay interested. The next one is Dr. Karl Hempel. If you want a physican who will tell you it is ok to run when your shin bone is temporarily perpendicular to you plantar fasciitis, then show up for this one. Dr. Hempel as you know is an avid runner and keeps up with the latest literature on the subject so come ask him some questions.
We keep telling you that the Club is trying to breathe some life into the Chenoweth Fund. The latest idea is to schedule a run/fund raiser on the Lake Overstreet or Phipps property along with a social. We will draw pot luck teams and all proceeds will go to the Fund. That means no trophies or tee shirts, but just a good time. The social will feature another “open mike” night and lots of fun. Look for fliers and time around the end of May or beginning of June. The distance will be one that will guarantee you a PR.
There lots more to say, but Rex is already yelling about my wasting so much space in the Newsletter with dribble, so I will see you the races and other functions. Keep your running paths well worn!