Race Director of the Year

Presented by David Yon

GWTC has a history of consistency over time.  The club has at least 11 races that began more than 30 years ago and continue today.  In all my years with the club, I only remember 1 race cancelled for neglect and maybe 2 or 3 postponed because of weather.

A big part of the joy of running for me is remembering efforts over many years in my favorite races.  This is possible because the club has a lot of dedicated people willing, not just to step up and help someone, but to grab hold of a project – for example directing a race – and make it happen. Every year there is a lot of competition for Race Director of the Year.  And in truth, the award really goes to someone who has built a body of work over a number of years.  The “book” says,  the Race Director of the Year is given to a GWTC member “who has taken a major responsibility in the production of quality events, especially those favored by GWTC runners, whether by initiation or direction of the event or by coordination of a major aspect of the event.”

Now let’s get one thing straight right up front – Race Directing is hard, stressful work. It is hard because it requires a lot of hours, a lot of begging and a lot of planning.  It is stressful because no matter how well you plan, you cannot control everything and you never know if all those people you begged until they said yes will actually be there.  At least 10 things will go wrong. Any one of them could turn the day into a disaster. Your best hope it that none of the 10 things do that. I quit my first time directing a race after 2 years, thinking I would never do it again.

I am sure that is why there are certainly hundreds, maybe more, races that made a splash and then disappeared.  They were not GWTC races, but various groups took on the challenge and either found it too daunting or the people that made the event happen moved on and could not be replaced.  But we learn to accept that.

Sometimes.  What I consider to be probably my best 5K effort ever was run in a very special race that went away for awhile.  My effort that day was not a PR (not really even close), but it was a tough course that challenged runners’ willingness to push through the pain of racing.  The race was not officially a GWTC race, but it was under the direction of some outstanding members (JD and Lamons Warren) and it certainly was a race that GWTC runners “favored.” It was a major part of the running community. Despite its toughness, it had some of the deepest fields Tallahassee has ever seen.  It was one of those races I loved using as a yearly yardstick to see first how much I was improving and then how far I was declining.

But you remember that part about race directing being hard, stressful work?  Well, when the two individuals I mentioned above decided to step away from the race, it lost the leadership with the will to keep it going and sometime around the millennium, it was no more. There were some efforts to revive it, but the course was different and somehow it just wasn’t the same race.

Sometime in 2009, our award winner decided to take on the mantle of leadership and bring this special event back.  This person did the research and learned about the history of the race.  She had a passion to make it work and to make it a voice in the community for a special group she was a part of.  She wanted it to be something that JD and Lamons Warren could be proud of again.

Boy did she succeed.  She recruited top notch help, tapped into her support system, and spread the word that an old friend was back.  Yep, even the pancakes were coming back.  On March 13, 2010, 477 runners showed up at Killearn Methodist Church to participate in the 5K and another 223 completed the mile race – 700 total.   One of the largest (and hungriest) race crowds in town. I am proud to say, I was one.  Last year Over 900 finished.

This year’s Race Director of the Year – remember I said this award recognizes a body of work – has worked hard every year since to make this event better.  The Church and running community have provided a terrific supply of volunteers, including cooking thousands of pancakes.  The proceeds from the races have gone to Killearn Methodist’s outreach programs to fight hunger. 

It is not always been an easy battle for our winner.  Some of you might remember a column I wrote not too long ago about her battle with cancer.  Her courage inspires us all. But most important, the 2013 Race Director of the Year has taught us how to focus on important things, she has brought back a Tallahassee Treasure.  She has taught us how to be strong – and how to be weak and reach out to friends for help when that makes sense.

At this time, I would like to ask all the members of the Early Girlz Running Group to come forward.  They have often been the strength to get our award winner through tough times. They are proof that if you cannot do it alone, there is someone that will help.

And now, if she would, I would like to ask Connie Clarke, the 2013 Race Director of the Year to come forward and receive her award!