Springtime HistoryDavid Yon, March 28, 2009
The dogwoods and azaleas are the signature announcement that Tallahassee winter has finally given way to springtime. Of course winter always seems to get a couple of extra days of attention after we have put our coats away – see Sunday night’s projected low of 44 for example. And for runners, those dogwoods and azaleas mark the arrival of the Springtime Tallahassee 10K. Hopefully, you have gotten up early enough to get your cup of coffee, read a bit of the paper and do a little stretching before heading out the door to run the race – the 1 mile race goes off at 7:45 and the 10K and 5K start at 8:10. If not, you will have missed one of those events that make Tallahassee such a special place to live.
The race has always been a GWTC event and began in 1976 as a four mile event on the FSU campus. Club historian, Bill McGuire, reports the early driving force behind the race was Dennis Fitzgerald who provided the first sponsorship dollars through Gulf National Bank. One hundred and six finishers ran the two loop course around the athlete fields and Don Cook and George West finished tied for first in 20:30. Janice Gage, now Hochstein, was the top woman. The idea of a major “downtown” race had been kicking around the running community for awhile though and when Gulf Bank merged with Lewis State Bank, which was located right downtown on Monroe Street, the pieces started coming together for a downtown event.
Again, Bill McGuire reports the history as follows. “Jim Penrod, a local doctor, was president of the more formally organized Gulf Winds Track Club. Dennis Fitzgerald and Gulf National were interested in keeping their run going, this time in a downtown setting. The two men got together and the idea for the Springtime 10K was born. According to Penrod, Dennis talked to his contacts on the Springtime Committee, and Jim was able to get an appointment with Captain Deason of the Police Department. With a bank executive and a respected member of the medical profession the local running community gained some immediate legitimacy with the powers-that-be. Doors which had been closed suddenly opened, the Track Club had its big race downtown, and Fitzgerald had a race that started and ended at the front steps of Lewis State Bank, which would pick up official sponsorship by 1978.” There would be 205 finishers in the first downtown race.
The downtown start is one factor that gives this race its unique appeal. The tough rolling course that winds through Myers Park is another. The neighborhood is often filled with the dogwood and azalea blossoms that mark Tallahassee spring days and the hills provide runners with the kind of challenges they can talk about all year. Runners mill about on Monroe Street before the race start warming up and greeting friends and neighbors, some they may not have seen since the previous year’s race. It is a community party as much as a race. Of course once the gun goes off runners blast down the first mile – which includes a long downhill on Call Street that lulls many participants into too fast a pace. Reality hits quickly though as the second mile begins with a flat stretch before climbing uphill on Lafayette Street and then climbing into the park. But there is a great celebration waiting at the end! This year’s race will add chip timing.
The race usually attracts around 1000 runners most years. Race directors Brian Corbin and Judy Alexander do a great job organizing all of the details that keep it one of the city’s best traditions. They added a 5K two years ago and it has become a popular part of the race. Capital Health Plan has been the presenting sponsor for many years now and a key part of keeping the race a top quality event. So, I hope by now you are headed out the door to be part of the 34th running of Springtime. If not, it is time to start training for 2010!