Race Director(s) of the Year Award – Jackie and Jerry McDaniel

Presented by Mary Jean Yon January 15, 2011

One admirable trait about this club of ours is the opportunity it presents to make friends and develop those friendships far beyond just running and racing together. Sometimes we even socialize together! And sometimes when we socialize we might even indulge a little bit and find ourselves a wee bit vulnerable when our well-meaning friends talk us into doing things that go on to possibly become our legacy…so to speak!

Such is the case with the 2010 GWTC Race Director(s) of the Year. One minute they’re sipping a cold beverage at a party and next thing you know, they’re musing, “Yeah, I could probably do that.” The rest, as they say, is history! That was the summer of 2004 when Jerry & Jackie McDaniel assumed the duties of directing the GWTC 30K and never looked back.

When the dynamic duo inherited this race, it was in need of a boost in so many ways. To quote Herb Wills, resident Club historian, this race has always had “a sort of gypsy existence.” The Club was chased away from the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge where it had enjoyed 19 continuous years of staging. The race returned to its original home at Natural Bridge, but that was not proving to be as esthetically pleasing of a location and attendance had fallen off at an alarming rate and in their first year directing the race at Natural Bridge Road 38 runners finished the race. The first order of business after that year was to march into the Refuge Manager’s office and request permission to bring the race back. Despite a gallant effort, the concerns were still there that runners and their corresponding traffic on the road interfered with other people trying to enjoy the other amenities offered at the refuge.

So Jerry & Jackie set about finding a new location for the race and it didn’t take long to realize that one of their favorite spots in town had just the right formula for success. You know, a course that would challenge the runners and keep alive the spirit of suffering that the 30K was known for. This course had lots of red clay hills that were guaranteed to test a runner’s resolve and became even more fun in the rain! A 15K race was added and the best guess here is that Jackie, the more compassionate member of the team, wanted to offer an opportunity to minimize the pain by minimizing the distance! And it worked! Attendance more than tripled in their first year which was 2006 and has continued to grow every year since; especially the 30K which will always be considered the signature race!

The other improvements that Jerry & Jackie have brought to this race are the plush accommodations known as The Retreat at Bradley’s Pond. This very popular wedding venue also works quite well for housing a race day registration team and keeping runners’ warm both before and after the race! Smart enough to realize these two user groups don’t mix very well, our race directors had the extra clever idea to couple their race locale with the Club’s annual award ceremony. Again, we’re quite sure this was the work of Jackie who grew weary of sharing the facility on race day with wedding parties and having to chase runners away from any pre-staged wedding decorations!

So look around you, appreciate your surroundings and join me in congratulating the GWTC 2010 Race Director(s) of the Year…Jerry & Jackie McDaniel!