They Must Be Mad (and I don’t mean angry)


David Yon,


It takes a mad man and woman to put in the time, put up with the snarly runners, and take the risk of failure and disappointment in order to make the Tallahassee Marathon a success. For all the time, all the worrying, all the effort and all the patience it requires they are rewarded not a cent. Perhaps, once in a life time, they are recognized as Race Directors of the Year.

Yet, that is just what the husband and wife team of Jay Silvanima and Nancy Stedman have done. Slowly, but steadily, they have seen their vision of the Tallahassee Marathon and Half Marathon realized. On Sunday, February 3rd the event broke all records with 1034 finishers (307 in the marathon) representing more than 30 states and 4 countries. Directing this event requires more endurance than running the races. The demands of making sure more than a 1000 runners safely navigate the course without getting lost or hit by a car, find food and water when they need it, and that adequate medical care is available if the unfortunate happens are simply not for sane people. It is not just a lot of hard work; it is also about sweating all the details.

So why do they do it? I asked them both to give me the one word that best summed up their experience. Jay, who has directed the race for the past 7 years said: “exhilarating.” Nancy’s word after 5 years as a director was “wonderful.” Hopefully those words will still apply in 10 years.

Jay further explained that he was motivated by: “The desire to have a first rate marathon in Tallahassee.” He also loves the opportunity to meet new people from around the globe who have similar desires, see folks complete their first marathon and learn their life stories, see athletes compete at a high level for 26.2 miles, and (this year) have the opportunity to watch the top three men finish within 30 seconds of each other.

For Nancy it has been the opportunity and challenge of building the race her way, keeping it an event for runners. “We have nurtured this child (or young adult actually) pretty carefully to get it to where it is now.” She wants to protect it from becoming “some kind of circus or spectacle (which many marathons have become).” It is important to her to “keep the full marathon as the main, emphasized race….not adding a bunch of other stuff to it… have some respect for the purity of a home town distance race.”

They rely on a critical group of volunteers that form the race leadership team. Of course the Tallahassee Police Department, FSU Police and the Sheriff’s Department provide crucial help. Sheryl Rosen gets the very difficult task of asking a long list of people to go stand on a street corner for many hours and keep runners on the right course while risking life and limb to keep angry drivers from running over those same runners. Philip Munoz delivers all of the necessary tables, coolers and cups to the six or so water stations and makes sure they are properly staffed with volunteers. Peg Griffin and Bill Hillison make sure the race gets scored properly, this time branching out to provide splits at the turnaround points for both races. Bill Lott oversees the finish line area and gets the course marked correctly. Cynthia Christen oversees registration, while Jude Dugas and Kathy Lindsey make sure there is enough food and drink for more than 1000 finishers.

These are the kinds of things that make our community strong. People like Jay and Nancy give us all something to be very proud of while bringing us together as a community. I think that is a big part of why they do it. “Jay and I are truly blessed to be part of this. We are looking forward to the 40th Tallahassee Marathon & Half Marathon on February 2, 2014!” I am just glad they are mad enough to accept the challenge.