By David Yon
More than ten years ago GWTC tested the idea that moving one of its races to Thanksgiving Day might help the race recover from declining attendance and other problems. It was not an easy decision as many people travel, while others have family visiting, over Thanksgiving. The first few years produced mixed results as the numbers grew slowly. But the idea that fitness, food, and sharing could all mix together on a special day of the year slowly took hold and somewhere along the way a Turkey learned to fly.
This year it eyed a scary goal, and while it was not totally smooth sailing, it reached new heights. At least 1267 runners and walkers joined forces to run, jog, walk, and share a Thanksgiving workout at the State Office Complex off Capital Circle. The new course wound through SouthWood development and received rave reviews as runners made their way around Central Park Lake and under ancient oaks.
A dedicated core of volunteers scrambled for all they were worth to keep up with the needs of what may well have been the largest scored race ever run in Tallahassee.
The first runner to finish was Bud Galloway, the winner of the Turkey Gobbler Mile, in a time of 5:28. Nicki Sanquiliane was the first female finisher in 7:45. One hundred and sixty-seven kids and adults finished the one mile. The 5K was the mega event as more than 650 finished the event.
We will never know exactly how many ran as the finish line crew ran out of place cards for this event. Shawn Patterson got there in time to get the first card by running 16:47 to win the men’s race, while Karol Withrow took the women’s title with a 19:42 finish. The 10K was the grand prix event and the choice of most GWTC runners. Gary Droze added another Turkey Trot title to his list when he finished in 34:55. Club President Jane Johnson, another multiple winner, ran 41:05 to leave the other women behind. There were 265 finishers in the 10K.
The 15K race saw two legends battle it out. GWTC Runner of the Year in 1989, Jessie Close, got the better of marathoning legend Dick Beardsley by running 53:35 to pull away from the 1982 Boston Marathon runner up who finished second in 55:05. Beardsley told a large group of runners his captivating story of rising to the top of the marathoning world before falling victim to addiction to pain medication. Carrie Weyant added to her Turkey Trot win total by taking the 15K title in 1:03:21.
Runners brought food, clothes and toiletry items for the U-Haul trailer to help complete the magnificent day. There was an air of celebration keeping the Turkey flying high this year as runners from all over the city, including the Lt. Governor, Frank Brogan, brought a very special atmosphere to this event.
And if you still believe that myth about never seeing a runner smile, you simply need to mark this event on your calendar next year and come find out what it is all about.