Palace Breaks the Thousand mark

David Yon, April 2009

I knew something special was happening when the lot around the Palace Saloon was filled with cars at 7:00 a.m., more than an hour before the start of the race. Race directors Herb Wills and Reid Vannoy have found the right formula for this race – a good course, a shot gun start, nonstop advertising, an appeal to FSU students and free beer. The result for the 35th Palace Saloon was 1022 mostly happy finishers. The race begins on Dupree Street, runs a big square around Messer Field and finishes in front of the Palace Saloon after almost 2 miles of running straight down Jackson Bluff road. There is one hill, but if you can make it to the top without giving in, there is a great downhill reward on the other side.

Herb and Reid’s nonstop marketing efforts have resulted in this race growing from approximately 250 in 2003 to the third biggest race in town. It has a unique fun atmosphere that blends the traditional local road racer with the FSU students crowd. It is not only one of the oldest races in town, but it is also by far the race run on the same course for the most consecutive years. And while the ownership of the Palace Saloon has changed, its support for the race has remained strong throughout the years.

On Saturday John Robida ended David Altmaier’s winning streak with a seven second victory. John’s time of 16:21 was a 25 second improvement from last year and good enough to earn the win. David had a close battle with third place finisher Stephen Cox, but he prevailed 16:28 to 16:30. Tripp Southerland and Charlie Johnson rounded out the sub 17:00 minute finishers. John and David are one-two in the GWTC grand prix series as well. Michael Martinez won a good battle with Tim Unger and Carl Nordheilm for the masters title. Mike, at 43, the youngster of the group crossed the line in 17:22. Tim (closing in on the grandmaster category) was next in 17:47 and Carl finished in 17:50. Those of us who have reached the grandmasters competition already are having Tim’s birth certificate pulled in hopes he really has a couple more years to go.

On the women’s side Lisa Johnson won her second straight Palace with a personal best of 18:11, 45 seconds faster than last year. Right behind Lisa was Amy Paine who finished in 18:15. Alison Eagen just missed breaking the 19:00 minute marked when she took third in 19:03. The masters champion was Mary Anne Grayson who ran 20:22. Jane Johnson was just behind in 20:29, good enough to grab the grand master title.

Scoring a race that big is a challenge. Last year’s smaller crowd got backed up in the finish chute and made accurate results difficult. This year Reid teamed up with Peg Griffin and Bill Lott to design a two chute finish line. There were able to test it at the Cookie Run and it performed near flawlessly last Saturday. With the number of finisher closely split between men and women, one chute was for men and one for women. Both chutes kept runners flowing and mostly in order. Just like the beer!