By Gary Griffin
Last weekend Jack McDermott ventured out to Newport, OR and came home with a 2:50 PR marathon and a third place overall finish. Yesterday in the Pennar 40-Mile Road Race he entered the world of ultrarunning and came away with second place, leading GWTC to a 2-3-4-6 overall finish in what is fast becoming a Tallahassee ultrarunners showcase. What makes Marathon Jack’s performance even more amazing is that he arrived in Pensacola at 11 PM following a morning job interview in Jacksonville, and was ready to toe the starting line at Ft Pickens at 4 AM the next morning. Ah …. the sweet power of youth!
Traditionally, the Pennar 40-Miler eats the inexperienced, spits them out, and leaves them groveling in the blowing sands of the Gulf Island National Seashore. Traditionally, the Pennar 40-Miler begins in temperatures over 80 degrees and finishes in the oppressive midday heat that has taken the indices over 100. Not yesterday. Yesterday was ultrarunner-friendly, with temps never ranging out of the 70s. Not that a typical Pennar would have deterred Marathon Jack! For several years I have been after him to run this event, just feeling that it was the kind of experience that he could look back on as a defining moment in his running career – a chance for true spiritual growth. There’s nothing like the “ant under a magnifying glass” feeling that one can get at mile 33 at Pennar to bring one in touch with one’s innermost self. Jack would have been fine in the typical Pennar elements and yesterday he at least got a taste of what lies beyond 26.2. He may even have to change his name to Ultra Jack.
Another GWTC ultra newbie that toed the line yesterday was Andrew Maurey. Andrew has some fast marathons in his distant past but his ultra experience had been restricted to some very long ocean swims. That’s crazy, in my book. You could die out there. No one has ever drowned at Pennar. Yesterday, Andrew ran a strong 25 miles and hung on for 6th place overall in a gutsy performance. Just ask Jeff Bryan how lonely it can get out there in the National Seashore after 25 miles. His initial effort at Pennar produced a similar result and he then came back the next year (2002) and won the whole thing.
Speaking of Jeff, he turned in another excellent effort yesterday, knocking 16 minutes off of his 2002 time and earning third overall. He hung with the leaders through the Navarre bridge area (mile 20) before taking it home on cruise control.
As for this writer – I went into this Pennar determined to break the 6 hour mark that had eluded me since my first two Pennar efforts in 1992 and 1993. When yesterday dawned mild, overcast, and mostly gale-free, I knew it was now or never. Fitness and wellness are often fleeting in this sport, and my level of training and confidence going in had never been higher. Supported by running the first 30 miles with my friend Scott Ludwig, and my wonderful crew of Peg and George Palmer, the sub-6 was rarely in doubt. I felt wonderful the whole trip, and although there are no mile markers at Pennar, I felt as if I ran negative splits. That is definitely a first for me in my 8 years out there.
So fellow-GWTCers: mark your calendars for the first Saturday in June, 2004. Next year we put a half dozen or so of us in the top 10. How about it?
Jack McDermott 5:26
Jeff Bryan 5:40
Gary Griffin 5:45
(Scott Ludwig) 6:02
Andrew Maurey 6:17